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2015 PGA Tour (Wells Fargo – Barbasol )

Event #25
Wells Fargo Championship
Quail Hollow Club
Charlotte, North Carolina
$7.1 million

FIRST ROUND:

Under difficult conditions, including heavy winds and greens that weren’t holding much, it seemed surprising that as many as 39 players managed to break par. At the head of the class, and by two shots, is Kevin Streelman with a 6-under 66.

The 36-year old Streelman, a couple years removed from playing the best golf of his career and, while good, was not up to the quality of a Spieth, Day or McIlroy, has been so-so this year, missing the cut in half the sixteen events he’s played with three top 20s, including a thirteenth at The Masters.

After feeling his away around through the first four holes, two on scrambles, Streelman picked it up starting with a birdie at the par-five fifth. After a sandy at six, he eagled the par-five seventh with a 3I from 226 to fourteen feet. He hit close at eight and birdied there. A three-putt bogey at nine, his only one of the day, only slowed him down a little as he had a line out of the trees at eleven and hit a PW to eleven feet and made birdie and followed it with another eleven-foot birdie putt at twelve. His last birdie was at the par-five fifteenth before cruising to the finish line with three regulation pars.

Not terribly long ago, Streelman shot 65 in the opening round of the Heritage, equaling his best round of the season (the second round at Palm Springs being the other). But he shot 75 in the second round and missed the cut. Worth a mention.

DJ Trahan, who earned back his Tour card with a win at Puerto Rico, is among a foursome tied for second at 68. Others are Danny Lee, Scott Pinckney and JJ Henry. Trahan more than fought off three bogeys between the ninth and twelfth holes by running off four straight birdies starting at fourteen, the last being a chip in from 60 feet at seventeen. Lee started out quickly with four birdies in five holes starting at two, including lengthy putts at two and six, both par-threes, the one at two coming from another area code (67 feet). Henry eagled the fifth by holing out from 59. Pinckney birdies three in a row starting at fourteen, including a 6I out of the rough from 196 to four feet at sixteen.

The rest of the top ten consists of a bunch of guys at 69: Adam Hadwin, Retief Goosen, Troy Merritt, Gary Woodland, Sang-moon Bae, Kevin Chappell and Patrick Rodgers.

SHOTS OF THE DAY:

Henry’s eagle at five is one, Lee’s putt at two another and Trahan’s chip-in at seventeen still another. But let’s add Jason Kokrak to the mix as he holed out from 43 for eagle at the par-five tenth, the only eagle at that hole today. Kokrak also recovered from a trip into the water and a double-bogey at seven when he tried to go for the par-five in two by shooting a round of 70.

 

SECOND ROUND:

Yesterday’s leader, Kevin Streelman, was in the fourth to last group of the day. And, as he stepped to the first tee, only one player had pulled even to his -6 score (Sang-moon Bae) and only one other had pulled ahead (Danny Lee at -7). So, Streelman figured that he could shoot 70 and waltz into tomorrow with the lead. Or shoot 68 or better and have a bigger lead. Didn’t quite work out that way.

First, with the wind down to a more manageable level and the course a little softer after some overnight rain, the course played about a shot and a half easier today. Not for Streelman, who lost six strokes from yesterday with an even-par 72.

Streelman had early bogeys at three and six as he not only missed the green both times but also missed makeable putts that would have salvaged par (six and five feet). But he turned it around with four birdies between the eighth and thirteenth holes, the last a 32-footer from off the fringe, to get to 2-under on the day and a one-shot lead. But missed greens at seventeen and eighteen led to two late bogeys and he’ll have to settle with being a shot behind and not in the final pairing tomorrow.

Lee recovered from some early scrambling to play some decent golf (like he’s playing tiddly winks out here). But his best work was a scramble par at twelve. Pushing his drive about 45-50 yards off line, Lee’s ball ended up in a creek that shouldn’t have been in play for maybe even the weekend hackers. But he backed up a few yards on the same line and had just enough room to launch a 7I over the trees. To six feet past the back right pin. For a par. He also tried to drive the green at the 329-yard fourteenth and came up short and in the bunker. Nothing like getting a birdie sandy on a 35-yard bunker shot as he holed an eight-foot putt to do it.

After a trip into the trees and a bogey at twelve, Bae reeled off three straight birdies. He would have been tied for the lead except that he did as quite a few others did at the 232-yard, all carry par-three seventeenth and bailed right (because left means the scuba diver fetches the balls and sells them back to you) and made bogey. But a pair of 69s means he’ll be in the final twosome tomorrow with Lee.

Streelman will be paired with Will MacKenzie, who shot the round of the day with a 65 to move from getting a visit from the cut man to 6-under. As was the case yesterday, MacKenzie started his day with a bogey. Unlike yesterday, he improved from there, including making a 30-footer for eagle at the par-five fifteenth. His four non-par-five birdies came courtesy of solid approaches—8, 4, 9 and 5 feet.

THE REST OF THE TOP TEN…

…consists of a bunch of guys at 5-under. Pat Perez (67), Andres Gonzales (67), Rory McIlroy (68), Sean O’Hair (68), Andres Romero (68) and Troy Merritt (70).

HONORABLE MENTION:

Steve Wheatcroft, who was in the cut man’s waiting room after early bogeys at one and three saw him at 3-over. But he turned it around, including a 30 back nine (and 7-under for the final ten, if you include the birdie at nine). A couple highlights from the back nine included a 6I to two feet at the 192-yard thirteenth and a short-sided pitch from 48 out of the rough to just two feet and a birdie at the next. With a 67, Wheatcroft is just outside the top ten at 4-under.

SHOT OF THE DAY:

Sam Saunders at fourteen.

We know about the hole, a drivable par-four. Like many, Saunders gave it a rip. Miss left and the ball drowns. But Saunders not only hit it straight as an arrow, he got the distance to within a yard as his ball hit just off the front of the green, hopped on and rolled a yard short of pin high, which was 329. And then he sank his eighteen-foot putt for eagle. Which was a big help as he parred the rest of the way, including a brutal three-putt from just twelve feet at the par-five fifteenth when he had a decent shot at back-to-back eagles. And, speaking of on the number, that eagle at fourteen assured Saunders of finishing on the number for the cut line as well and getting paid this week. With that in mind…

THE CUT LINE:

In the real world, there’d be a secondary cut after tomorrow’s round. In my world, that won’t happen as the biggest weekend crowd of the season (of golfers, that is) will stick around for the weekend–91 at +2 or better.

A few names are leaving early: Patrick Reed, Hideki Matsuyama (probably because he’s likely still playing as he’s so damned slow), Webb Simpson, Henrik Stenson, Angel Cabrera, Hunter Mahan and Zac Blair.

 

THIRD ROUND:

JB Holmes, one shot away from an early exit, was the leader in the clubhouse for the longest time. And that’s because he’s was done and showered before anyone in the top ten teed off. All things considered, only thirteen are in front of him after a 55-spot march up the leaderboard.

On the easiest scoring day, so far, Holmes burned up the back nine to the tune of 7-under 29. Of his five non-par-five birdies, none were on putts closer than nine feet. By the way, Holmes shot 64 and is at 6-under, five off the lead.

Patrick Rodgers was also the leader in the clubhouse for a while and would have been within a shot of it had he not pulled his drive into the creek that runs not too far off the left side of the fairway at eighteen and made double-bogey. Before that, he was tearing up the back nine starting with a 30-footer for eagle at ten and including a two-putt birdie at the drivable fourteenth. Even with the double at the last, Rodgers still shot 65 and, at -8, is three shots back.

Danny Lee is still the leader, though he’ll have to share it now with Charles Howell III.

After the birdie at one, Lee played a generally uninspired round. Except for one hole. At the short eighth (349), Lee holed out with a SW from 109 for eagle. 68 today and he’s at 11-under.

After eight bogeys in the first two rounds, Howell came out shooting today with a bogey-free 65. Where Howell improved was over the final five holes. 5-over combined in the first two rounds, Howell played them flawlessly with birdies at all but the tricky par-three seventeenth, 215, all carry to a far left pin position near the water. He played safe and parred that.

After the two leaders, Rory McIlroy shot a 67 to move into a tie for third at -10. He started off slow with two bogeys in the first three holes. But he bounced back quite nicely, including needing just a 7I to get home at the par-five seventh, hitting to ten feet and making eagle. McIlroy backed up two steps when he hit his approach out of the deep rough and jacked it well into the water. Total mis-hit. Also a double-bogey. But he made up for it a bit by sinking a 32-foot putt for birdie at seventeen, one of only eleven at the most difficult hole on the course today.

McIlroy is tied with round one leader Kevin Streelman, who bounced back with a 68 after shooting even par yesterday. Streelman eagled the seventh. But, unlike McIlroy, he needed a 3I to get home. That’s because McIlroy hit his drive 340 while Streelman hit it only a paltry 295. He would have been tied for the lead except for landing in the fairway bunker at eighteen (there’s only one and it’s there for those who steer away from the creek a little too far), putting his second on the fringe then three-putting from just under 30 feet. Without the bogey, he’d be playing with Howell in the final pairing. Now, he gets McIlroy. Oh, joy!

That takes care of the top four. Three are tied at -9: Jason Kokrak (who started his day with a double-bogey and still shot 66), Andres Gonzales (68) and Will Mackenzie (69, even with four bogeys). Four more are tied at 8-under, meaning it’s going to be a sprint to the finish tomorrow. Rodgers in one. Jim Herman (68) is another. And Sean O’Hair and Pat Perez (both with 69) are the others.

SHOTS OF THE DAY:

Derek Fathauer at four. 486. Driver/7I. Must be nice. The 7I was holed out from 171. 3-under through four, he gave it all back with bogeys at each of the next three, eventually shooting 71. He’s at 2-under.

Lee at eight had one, already noted.

William McGirt at seventeen. He won the closest to the pin prize as he hit a 4I that looked like it was going to roll in but skittered just past. He tapped in for birdie. With a round of 70, he’s at 3-under.

 

FINAL ROUND:

If you remember, Thursday’s round featured heavy winds that steadily died down over the last two days. That wind returned with a vengeance today.

It was Sang-moon Bae who set the relatively early pace with a day’s best 66. Relatively, as he started ten groups from the leaders, meaning that the final twosome had already made the turn. For the record, each pairing or threesome increments by holes. So, in the game, the leaders were just coming off eight when Bae was finishing up. In real time, ten groups is 100 minutes, give or take. At about 120 minutes for nine holes, the last pairing were likely on the eleventh hole.

Anway, after missing a four-footer that would have saved par at four, he played nearly flawless golf afterward, including chipping in from off the back of the green for birdie at eight and three scrambles, including one at eleven where he hit his drive well into the trees, was able to hit out to the fairway and nearly holed out from 79.

Jason Kokrak, who started the day at -9, was playing seven groups behind Bae, and was walking off thirteen tied with him -12. Kokrak hit to five feet at thirteen and birdied that. Then, though he missed the green in two at the par-five fourteenth and was short-sided, he was still able to pitch to five feet and make birdie. At 14-under, he had a share of the lead at the time.

Because one of the men playing in the pairing behind him, Rory McIlroy, was right in the thick of things.

McIlroy, who started the day at 10-under, one shot off the lead, hit to three feet and made birdie at the par-three second and also birdie both front nine par-fives. But he misjudged the speed of his birdie putt off the fringe at eight and ran it well past, missing from ten feet to save par. With ten bogeys this week, McIlroy was a bit up and down, though he was more up. He sank a nineteen-foot putt at nine to get back to -13 but bogeyed the twelfth when he couldn’t convert on a long bunker shot. But he bounced back with birdies at thirteen and fourteen—fourteen on a choked-down SW to three feet—to pull even with Kokrak.

But Kokrak fell back with a double at sixteen that shouldn’t have been. The good news was that, when he overshot the green with his approach, it didn’t go into the water. Unfortunately, his chip wasn’t a good one. With the pin on the top tier of a two-tiered green and with a bottom tier that slopes away, Kokrak’s chip ran down the slope and 20 feet past. OK, two uphill putts for bogey. Could be worse. It was, as the first putt ran six feet past and he missed the downhill putt and dropped two shots.

Watching the proceedings from the fairway, McIlroy launched an 8I from 194 to just eight feet under the hole and made birdie for a three-shot swing.

At that point, only one other player had even a puncher’s chance. That would be one of the to co-leaders from yesterday playing in the final pairing, Charles Howell III.

Howell had bogeyed three in a row starting at two but started his recovery with a driver/6I to nineteen feet at the par-five seventh. And, with mostly carry as the right and front ride of the green are framed by water, Howell’s shot was right on line, just a little short. He also birdied the tenth, thirteenth and got up and down from 86 to two feet at the par-five fifteenth to get to 13-under, or two shots behind.

But McIlroy hit pin high at the way back pin position at eighteen and made a seventeen-footer for birdie at the most difficult birdie hole on the course to open a three-shot lead. Which made it impossible for the only man on the course who once had a chance to catch him. So, Howell took a look at the leaderboard, saw himself all alone in second and decided that par was good enough. So he kept his tee shot away from the creek on the left and hit his approach to the center of the green and two-putted for place money.

So, McIlroy wins his second of the year (the Honda Classic was the first) by matching the day’s best score (Bae and Bo Van Pelt also shot 66) and finishing at -16 and winning by three. Howell (70) took second money with Bae (66), Kokrak (69) and yesterday’s co-leader Danny Lee (71) finishing tied for third at -12. Then, it was two strokes to Sean O’Hair (70) in sixth with Ryan Moore (70) finishing seventh at -9. Troy Merritt (70) and Kevin Streelman (74) finished tied for eighth at 8-under. Six were tied at -7: Tom Gillis, Brendan de Jonge and Martin Laird all shot 71; Pat Perez shot 73 while Will MacKenzie and Andres Gonzales shot 74.

REAL LIFE:

That McIlroy fella also won the actual tourney, albeit five shots better and by four more shots at -21 and winning by seven.

The other person to make an appearance in both top ten lists was Streelman, who finished tied for ninth at -10.

RORY McILROY (-16, wins by three)
You know how baseball players sometimes say the ball looks like a beach ball when they’re hitting well?
Looks like that could apply to McIlroy here.
Photo taken by Control Agent 13 (“Get Smart” reference).

Event #26
Crowne Plaza Invitational
Colonial CC
Fort Worth, Texas
$6.5 million

FIRST ROUND:

It’s a home game for Jordan Spieth. So, it’s no surprise that he’s on the top of the leaderboard along with Scott Piercy, both shooting 8-under 62.

It was the usual Spieth. Fifteen greens. Fourth in putting. 3/3 in scrambling. No bogeys. Made some putts–25 feet at ten, 19 feet at thirteen, 18 feet at sixteen, 13 feet at eighteen. He also hit to two feet at the par-three eighth and a PW to two feet at seventeen. The total package.

As for Piercy, after a three-putt bogey at eight, he birdied seven of the final ten, most of it with the putter, coming home in 29. Well, there was that 9I from 156 to a foot at the last. But there was also 23 feet at fourteen, 22 feet from off the back of the green at fifteen and a tricky downhill 24-footer at sixteen. In addition, he chipped in from 40 feet from off the back of the green at thirteen.

Chris Kirk and Carlos Ortiz each shot 63. Kirk hit ’em close today as his average leave at the non-par-five birdies was just under seven feet. Ortiz fought off two bogeys and chipped in from 45 feet from off the side of the green at four.

After those four, Martin Flores started his day with five birdies in the first six holes but leveled off and shot 64. Scott Pinckney recovered off back-to-back bogeys at five and six with back-to-back birdies at seven and eight and shot 65. Jhonattan Vegas finished with back-to-back birdies to tie Pinckney at 65. The rest of the top ten consists of three players at 66: Paul Casey, Andrew Svoboda and 54-year old Kenny Perry.

SHOTS OF THE DAY:

Ryo Ishikawa at thirteen. 193, par-three. Water front and a bit to the right. Can’t bail left (sand). Can’t hit long. Pin was 23 on, so room up front. Ishikawa hit a baby draw with a 6I and aced it! That was the best part of an up and down day for him, though mostly up, at he shot 67.

Vijay Singh at seventeen. 387, par-four. Singh placed a 3W to the center of the fairway and holed out with a sawed-off PW from 117. That eagle only partially undid the damage at the previous two holes as he three-putted from just twelve feet for bogey at fifteen and pushed his tee shot into the front bunker at sixteen. OK, he didn’t made his sandy. But he also missed from just two feet for bogey. So, double-bogey with the eagle getting him under par for the day at 69.

 

SECOND ROUND:

Without even lifting a club, yesterday’s co-leader Jordan Spieth was still tied for second as only one other golfer had passed him by with four others pulling alongside before he teed it up in the second-to-last threesome of the afternoon. By the time he finished, he was the leader, but only by a stroke.

The man who had passed him by John Senden, who shot a 7-under 63, equaled by Shawn Stefani and Kevin Chappell, two of the four who had pulled along side Spieth, even if temporarily. As it turned out, both are tied for third.

Quick look at Senden, who did some pretty nifty putting with five of his six non-par-five birdies. 13 feet at two, 38 feet at five, 23 feet at twelve, nine feet at seventeen and 29 at eighteen. He also hit to three feet at ten. He also bogeyed the sixteenth when he overshot the far right pin and landed in the back bunker. But he bounced back from them quite nicely. At -10, he’ll be playing with Spieth tomorrow.

Spieth was a bit shakier today as he shot a 67 to take a one-shot lead at 11-under. Though he didn’t miss one, he spent an inordinate amount of his day scrambling. 7/7. The long-ish putts he seems to make more than most—10, 20, 30 feet—weren’t dropping. But he didn’t make a bogey, either. That’s scary; you’re not playing your best golf and you’re still scoring. He are a couple examples: Par-five first. Tee shot into the bunker. About 25 yards in front of the green (and about 50 from the pin) in two. Flubbed his pitch. It happens to the best of them and he was still off the front of the green. Chip to six feet and a par. Par-four tenth. 3I off the tee as it’s only 398. Pulled it. Still had a shot to the green but the rough opened up the face on his 7I. Short, right and an 80 foot pitch upcoming. Which he holed out for birdie.

Along with Stefani and Chappell, Jhonattan Vegas (67) and Carlos Ortiz (69) are tied for third at -8, three shots back.

Stefani started his day by holing out of the bunker for eagle at one. Like Senden, he ran into a little trouble at sixteen, missing long but not in the bunker. With five feet to save par, he rimmed out.

Except for 27 feet at five and 15 at eight, Chappell was hitting them fairly close today as none of his other birdie putts was over nine feet.

The rest of the top ten is all at -7 with all but one shooting 66. The one who didn’t was Chris Kirk (70). The others: Zach Johnson, Louis Oosthuizen Ryo Ishikawa, Russell Knox and Michael Thompson. Of that crew, kudos to Oosthuizen, who started by hitting a 3W to five feet at one, hit a 6I out of the rough to a foot at three, holed out of the bunker at five and made a 37-footer for birdie at eight on his way to a 29 front. Alas, he hit his approach in the bunker at seventeen and eighteen and finished bogey-bogey.

Yesterday’s co-leader, Scott Piercy, had a half-dozen bogeys and couldn’t break par, posting a 72. At 6-under, he’s tied for thirteenth, five shots back.

THE CUT LINE:

Even par with 73 sticking around for the weekend. Some notables heading off to the next tournament a little early or taking a longer break include Charley Hoffman, Ian Poluter, Jeff Ogilvy, Adam Scott, Jason Dufner, Jason Kokrak, Vijay Singh and Brandt Snedeker.

SHOTS OF THE DAY:

In addition to the hole-outs already mentioned, there were two more at the par-five eleventh. At 629, you had better hit two bombs, with the second one likely being a 300-yard fade unless you want to flirt with the fairway bunkers on the left and you can hit past them while keeping it in the fairway. Or, you can just hole out your third like Knox (89 yards) or Ben Martin (68) did. We know Knox is well in the mix for the weekend. Not so for Martin who, though he shot a 68 today, missed the cut by three.

 

THIRD ROUND:

It’ll be Jordan Spieth and John Senden in the final twosome again tomorrow, just in a different order. Does that make sense? Of course, as Speith led for the first two rounds and Senden took over the top spot after a 6-under 64 today.

Once again, the conditions were absolutely pristine, meaning it was the golfers against the course (and each other).

Before the leaders are dissected, it’s worth mentioning that an AARP member shot the round of the day, 75-year old Kenny Perry (he’s really 54, but among these kids, he might feel 75, though he played 30 years younger today) with a 63. For a moment there, his name was about to be put atop the leaderboard. But Spieth birdied the first and he had to settle for second billing. And to think Perry had to bogeys. But he also had some stuff for the highlight reel. Like a 6I from 174 out of the rough at six to a foot. Like a 9I to three feet at nine. You can tell age is catching up with Perry as he needed a driver off the tee as most were using a 3W. And he needed a 9I from 133 when many of the young guns are using PW or SW. Also, 39 feet from off the back of the green at fourteen for birdie. At 11-under, Perry’s tied for seventh, five shots back.

Senden has been playing lights out of the back. 4-under each of the last two days and 3-under on Thursday. As he’s 16-under, do the math. Right now, he’s number one this week in putting. Hit close and you don’t have to putt much. Seven feet at ten, four at seventeen, nine at eighteen. Also, add the thirteen-footer at the par-three thirteenth. Why? On a difficult par-three, 176 and all but the last nine carry and with no place to bail except long and right—and don’t go too far right, Senden put a 6I about four yards past the stick and made the putt coming back. Though the third, fourth and sixteenth were tougher to birdie, the thirteenth has been the most difficult hole on the course for the first three days.

Spieth shot his second consecutive 67. Unlike yesterday, it came with three bogeys representing his first three unsuccessful scrambles of the week after batting 1.000 for his first ten scrambles of Thursday and Friday. Off all the shots he took today, give him the most credit for creativity at eighteen. He pushed his drive just into the rough but under a tree. He had room for a partial swing and had to keep the ball low. So, from 137, he used a 2I. You don’t see that too often around these parts. Spieth was able to roll his ball most of the way, narrowly avoiding the front right trap and rolling to seventeen feet past the pin. And he made the birdie putt. And smiled—that sheepish, humble smile. And, just after closing to within a shot of Senden, Senden made his nine-foot birdie putt to regain his two shot edge.

After Senden and Spieth, Louis Oosthuizen and Zach Johnson each shot 64 to move into a tie for third at 13-under, three shots off the lead. Oosthuizen seems to like the first, second and eighth holes as he’s played them in a combined 10-under with birdies at all every day except for an eagle at the par-five first yesterday. But there’s something about that eighth hole that just clicks with Oosthuizen. He made a sixteen-foot putt there on Thursday, a 37-footer up two tiers of a three-tiered green on Friday and he tooped that today with a chip in from 45 feet off the back of the green. As for Johnson, though he hit close a few times, he knocked one in at seventeen from just off the green and just past 50 feet.

That takes care of the first four. After that, it’s Russell Knox (65) and Shawn Stefani (66) tied for fifth at 12-under with Perry joined by Chris Stroud (65) and Jhonattan Vegas (67) in seventh at -11. Ryo Ishikawa (67) rounds out the top ten at 10-under.

Kevin Chappell was doing quite well for himself. At 8-under after yesterday’s round, he was in a group of four tied for third. And that eagle on the first hole today did him a world of good. After that, however, he could do little right as he missed eight greens and couldn’t get up and down at five of them. No double-bogeys in there anywhere; his second (and third) shot game just wasn’t clicking. So, with a 73, Chappell’s now at 5-under and tied for 29th.

 

FINAL ROUND:

Funny thing. The first three days were played under the most benign conditions and players scored well—the aggregate was generally about 1-under. Rain rolled through overnight and the breeze kicked up a bit. Lift, clean and place was in play and the course still played a half stroke easier than the previous three days.

One of the early risers set the tone as Sweden’s Carl Petterson shot a 9-under 61, which turned out to be the round of the day. Even with the receptive greens and general target practice, he was only able to hit close twice with his putter doing most of the talking as he went to the turn in a blistering 29. And his PW (or whatever he used around the green), too, as he chipped in from off the back of the green at seventeen. Just outside the top ten at 9-under when he walked off eighteen, others passed him by but he still finished a respectable tied for 21st.

John Senden started the day with a two-shot lead on playing partner Jordan Spieth, three on Zach Johnson and Louis Oosthuizen and four on Russell Knox and Shawn Stefani. Stefani didn’t do much, shooting a 69, picking up a top ten check for his efforts. Knox hung in there, always lurking nearby, often within just a shot of the lead. But he could never quite get over the hump. In the end, he finished tied for third. With maybe another superlative or two, the same could be said for Ryo Ishikawa, who shot a 64. But, as he started two farther back of Knox and Stefani, he needed two other strokes from somewhere. But he did finish tied for third, his first top ten and obviously best finish of the year for him.

Oosthuizen was the star of the show early on as he shot 30 on the front and added a birdie at ten. At that point, he had a two-shot lead. Four of his six birdies came after approaches to five feet (at three), nine (at five), five (at six) and three (at nine). At ten, he put a 7I over the pin and made sank a 24-footer to get to 19-under. A poor tee shot and approach at twelve saw Oosthuizen give one shot back. But the double at thirteen killed him as he put a fat 6I into the water at the par-three and missed from just four feet that would have salvaged a bogey. After that, a rattled Oosthuizen played uninspired golf. And though he salvaged two on scrambles, he couldn’t do any better than par the rest of the way.

And that leaves two.

Spieth, who led or shared for the first two rounds, birdied the par-five first, hit a 3W to just three feet at the 248-yard, par-three fourth then placed a three-quarter wedge to six feet at six. He also scrambled three times, the one from behind the green at the par-three eighth being a near hole-out, Spieth with a derisive smile as the ball hung on the edge of the cup. In any case, he was 17-under at the turn and a shot behind Oosthuizen, soon to be two as Oosthuizen would birdie the tenth.

Johnson birdied the first but otherwise had trouble getting his engine started, never hitting close enough to threaten the hole as the shortest birdie putt he faced was ten feet at five. He had a couple nice scrambles, including a beauty at the par-three eighth when he missed left off the tee and feathered a flop shot to just three feet. Johnson’s game perked up when he his a choked down PW to three feet at nine with his putter cashing in from 29 feet at ten and fourteen at twelve to get to 17-under, which was a shot out of the lead for about the next fifteen minutes or so until Oosthuizen made double at thirteen.

The back nine is a bit more difficult than the front here at Colonial, about a stroke’s worth today. And seeing only lurkers as a few were close by but with no one going on anything resembling a run, both Spieth and Johnson started rattling off pars. Both played the par-three thirteenth the same way, going over the pin and off the back of the green. The largest side (let’s call it the hypotenuse and see who remembers their geometry) of the triangular-shaped green is fronted by water with the Sunday pin at it’s most precarious, far right in one corner of the triangle. Johnson was able to putt from there and made his par while Spieth hit a bit longer, his ball rolling down the mowed down area and into the rough. Let’s just say he’s chipped better, but Speith made his seven-foot putt to preserve his par. And, in a scene reminiscent of the eighth hole, Spieth landed short of the green at the par-three and nearly holed out again. As it would have given him a one-shot lead with two to play, Spieth was again left shaking his head.

At the short (380) and slightly doglegged seventeenth, Johnson put a 3W exactly where he should have—on the left side of the fairway. With threes tight to either side on the approach, not only does it open up the green, it gives the golfer a really good look at it. The pin was back right, tucked in behind a bunker and on a small landing area as the green slopes away from there. With not much room to the right of the pin, Johnson parked a 9I there anyway, pin high and leaving twelve feet. Which he ran just past.

Playing behind him, Spieth nearly screwed himself as he elected to hit a 3I, maybe tried to do too much with it and pushed it well right. With trees in his way and needing to get the ball up quickly, he had just enough room to get over one with a PW. But he was asking a lot to get home with that club and in that situation from 141, didn’t and landed in the bunker. But Spieth made the sand save as he converted from five feet. So, bullet dodged.

Eighteen is a slight dogleg left, 441. The trees are tight to a narrow (25 yards or so) fairway. And there’s water down the left on the second, though there’s about 30 feet of room and a little catch area between the green and the water. There are also bunkers to the left and right front and another middle-right. It’s Sunday, so the pin is on the left, about five paces on from the left side and sort of tucked in behind the bunker as the green fattens out. With the breeze in his face and not much roll, Johnson used the driver and got only 275 out of it. With only 165 left, Johnson might have thought a 6I was the right club considering the conditions because, on a normal day, it’s probably an 8I. But the breeze died down as he addressed his ball and he flew the green. With 60 yards worth of chip, he rolled it past. But the five-footer for par was uphill and he put it in the center of the cup.

So, with Johnson now in at 17-under, Spieth could keep it in play, make par then take his chances in a playoff.

He got a couple more yards out of his driver while placing it perfectly—right center of the fairway. Unlike Johnson, Spieth went with the 8I. Right on target and five feet under the hole. And, like Johnson, he knocked it in dead center. But, unlike Johnson, it was for birdie and the win.

That makes three wins this year for Spieth, this one coming on his home turf. He has an over 400 point and $500,000 lead over Jason Day in the Fed Ex and money races. This kid is good.

So, Spieth (66, -18) beats Zach Johnson (also 66) by a shot. Ishikawa (64), Knox (66) and Oosthuizen (67) shared third place money at -16. Jhonattan Vegas (66), AARP veteran Kenny Perry (66, which is not his age) and Senden (71) all tied for sixth with Jim Herman (66) and Stefani (69) rounding out the top ten.

SHOT OF THE DAY:

Probably Spieth’s par-save at thirteen.

REAL LIFE:

The only common name in the top ten was Spieth’s as he missed by a shot to winner Chris Kirk, the winning score being 12-under. After an opening round of 63, Kirk finished up the track in the replay, subsequent rounds of 70-73-70 seeing him finish at -4, tied for 46th.

JORDAN SPIETH (-18, beats Zach Johnson by a shot)
As I’m posting this the day after, it’s a good thing he won yesterday at Colonial as I have
a picture of him with the actual trophy and that hideous sports jacket from the Lindsey Nelson/Don Cherry collection.

 

Event #27
AT&T Byron Nelson
TPC Four Seasons Resort
Irving, Texas
$7.1 million

FIRST ROUND:

As he finished in the top ten last week at the Colonial, I was going to add Kenny Perry to the field in addition to DJ Trahan, who earned back his full card in Puerto Rico. But Perry was already in the field, so I don’t have to. This course is also quick play. Which means quick write-up.

Under breezy conditions, only fifteen players broke par. Of course, there’s a curve buster in there. That’s Trevor Immelman who leads by three after a 6-under 64.

Immelman hasn’t done much this season. Hell, he hasn’t done much in seven years as his last win was at the ’08 Masters. Anyway, this year, it’s only four made cuts and, let’s just say he should be leading the protests for the $15/hour minimum wage as he’s never even been the top 50 while currently residing at 242nd on the money list. In other words, Obama should be sending him a free phone sometime in the near future. Or, maybe he’s gotten it already. Putting it another way, this was Immelman’s 34th competitive round of the year and he’s broken 70 only once (second round at the Frys). And today’s round was five shots better than that. Smart money says he’ll stagger in the second round and get KO’ed for good in the third.

And to think Immelman bogeyed the first and last holes. He also birdied all four par-threes, no small order in a place with fairly lengthy par-threes with a couple of greens that have been re-contured, though the Thursday pin placements are generally easier than Sunday’s.

After that, it’s three shots to Keegan Bradley and Bo Van Pelt at 67, Adam Hadwin, Max Homa, Vijay Singh, Rod Pampling, Luke Guthrie at 68 with the rest of the under-par crew being Troy Matteson, Austin Connelly, Matt Jones, Gary Woodland, Carl Petterson and Harris English.

 

SECOND ROUND:

Well, as predicted, Trevor Immelman staggered to a 3-over 73. The good news for him is that, since only eleven players are at even-par or better, Immelman’s 3-under total sees him tied for fourth. Let’s just say that four bogeys and a double at three, no thanks to a tee shot pushed into the water, outweighed three birdies.

Chad Campbell and Vijay Singh both shot 67 today after 68s yesterday and are co-leaders at 5-under. Campbell was 5-under on the day before back-to-back bogeys at fourteen and fifteen, both par-fours while Singh bogeyed the third and seventh but that was sandwiched around three birdies. He also birdied the last, another hole that has had some re-design work with lakes and a waterfall.

Rod Pampling, who many thought was in Witness Protection, shot his second straight 68 to grab sole possession of fourth at 4-under. Brian Harman (67) joined Immelman in a tie for fifth at -3. Then, it’s two shots to Vaughn Taylor (65), Jimmy Walker (69), Bryce Molder (69) and Adam Hadwin (71), all tied for sixth at 1-under. With a nine-shot improvement from yesterday as he eliminated the triple-bogey at six and double at eight, Taylor shot the round of the day. Jim Herman (68) and Steven Alker (70) round out the top ten as well as everyone who is either at par or under it.

THE CUT LINE:

+6, the highest cut line of the year so far (+5 at the Honda Classic), with 77 making it.

Some notables leaving early include Charl Schwartzel, Charles Howell III (all he did was finish second at the last event he played, the Wells Fargo, two weeks ago), Danny Lee, Morgan Hoffman, Zac Blair, Nick Watney, Eric Compton, Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar.

 

THIRD ROUND:

Well, son of a gun. If the wind dies down and the slackers who miss the cut aren’t playing the scores go down as the course played an aggregate of two shots easier today. Still over par, but easier. And, what was ten players at par or better is now sixteen.

The leaders coming into today—Vijay Singh and Chad Campbell—both played over par. One man just about given up for dead had the lead for a while before giving back. Another who whose career was shot before getting it resurrected here in fantasy-land is now tied for the lead. And another, seemingly equally as dead as the other two and who shot his best round of the year, and by five shots, in the first round is still lurking.

Singh never got passed where he started and shot 2-over 72. As he had three birdies, two of those shots came on an approach into the water at fourteen. He’s only a shot out of the lead at -3.

Campbell had two double-bogeys on the front side and shot 73 to fall back to 2-under.

Rod Pampling, one of the walking dead, started his day a shot off the lead and was actually at 7-under after birdies at two, three and five and in the lead at one point. But he bogeyed the next two while eventually being yet another golfer making a donation to the course with a round of 72. At 2-under, he’s two back. But there are also nine players within two shots of the lead which should make tomorrow into a real horse race.

DJ Trahan earned back his Tour card with a win in Puerto Rico. Starting his day at +2, he did an especially fine job on the back nine with four birdies and a day’s best round of 64, equaled by Cameron Percy. He’s now tied for the lead at 4-under and will be playing in the final twosome tomorrow with Jimmy Walker (67). Walker might have been in the lead if not for that double-bogey after his approach went into that brand new water hazard at eighteen.

Trevor Immelman, who mustered up a 64 on Thursday after having extreme difficulty breaking even 70 all season, as in he did that once and in his first round of the season at the first event of the season, shot 69 today and is actually doing more than just lurking as he’s also tied for the lead and will be joined by Brian Harman, who also shot 69 and is at -4, in the penultimate pairing. So much for the prediction of Immelman getting KO’ed in three.

OK, so we have the four leaders and Singh a shot back. And Pampling and Campbell are at -2, joined by Rory Sabbatini, who had five birdies in six holes to start the back nine, and Sang-moon Bae, who had a 5-under stretch over nine holes starting at five, both of whom shot 67. And the top ten is rounded out by three at 1-under—Percy, already mentioned, Steven Alker (69) and Adam Hadwin (70).

 

FINAL ROUND:

With four players tied for the lead coming in and a dozen players within three shots, the stampede to the finish never materialized.

One of the leaders, DJ Trahan, was well in the mix after the front nine, adding three shots to get to 7-under, one shot out of the lead held by Vijay Singh, who was just walking off the tenth green having birdied the hole. But Trahan severely hooked his tee shot at the tenth in the water and ending up making triple-bogey. Then, he tried to make up for at least some of that by trying to drive the eleventh which, at 313 as the crow flies, is out of his range and his ball came up short, left and in the water eventually leading to a mere bogey. Not done yet, Trahan pulled his drive at the dogleg right twelfth out of bounds and ended up with another triple-bogey. So, that made seven shots dropped in just three holes. He’d end up dropping two more, including a double at the last and what was 7-under at one time became 2-over. Sayonara.

Trevor Immelman surprised everyone, including himself by playing, far and away, his best golf in quite a long time as he shot 64 in the first round and led by three, fell to two back after the second round but bounced back to have a share of the lead coming into today. And, though he birdied the first, he doubled the fourth after a tee shot into the water, doubled the fourteenth on a pull approach into the water and had three other bogeys along the way to a final round 77. Sayonara.

The third co-leader, Brian Harman, had a share of the lead as late as the sixth hole and actually shot under par. But the 68 he shot wasn’t enough. The consolation prize wasn’t bad—tied for third, his best finish and biggest check of the year, besting his fourth place finish at Riviera.

The fourth co-leader was Jimmy Walker. Let’s hold him in abeyance for just a moment.

Vijay Singh, as mentioned, had the lead after ten. Starting a shot off the lead, he ran off three birdies in a row starting at six. Along with the birdie at one and the one at ten, he was at 8-under.

Walker started slow, just 1-under through eight in generally easy scoring conditions but on a difficult course. But then he ran off five birdies in a row starting at nine to get to 10-under. Singh would birdie the twelfth and fourteenth to match that score. Walker bogeyed the fourteenth but got that shot back with a birdie at the par-five sixteenth. So, with two holes left, Singh and Walker were tied at -10.

And then came the seventeenth. 191, par-three and a bit of a diamond-shaped green, a point of the diamond at the front of the green and the front right fronted by water and rocks with the pin tucked in behind at the far right side. And Singh put his tee shot into the water. After a drop in front of the pond, Singh put his third, a shot of about 55 yards, into the pond. Now hitting five from the same spot, he finally hit close and one-putted for triple-bogey six.

Walker got to witness that from the tee and steered well clear of the pin, landing on the far left of the green and three-putting for a mere bogey as he inherited a two-shot lead.

A deflated Singh would bogey the last to fall into a tie for third as previously unmentioned Jeff Overton, who shot a 63 but at four to five holes in front of the leaders, never threatened them though he came close, took second money.

Walker parred the last and won by two.

So, it’s Walker, with an impressive final round of 65 winning it at -9 with Overton at -7 and Harman (68), Singh (67, even with that late collapse) and Daniel Berger (64 and who was nearly cooked after an opening round 77) tied for third at 6-under. Rory Sabbatini (68) finished sixth at -4 with Harris English (63) and Rod Pampling (69) tied for seventh at -3. Chad Campbell (70) finished ninth at -2 with Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (67) being the last player at even-par or better finishing tenth at even-par.

For Walker, it’s his second win of the year after winning the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

For the Australian Pampling, who splits his time between here and there as he also has a house in Texas, and who’s been living on sponsors’ exemptions, this was the best finish of the year and he hasn’t finished in the top ten since and eighth place finish at the 2012 Farmers. It also got him a spot at next week’s Memorial tourney at Jack’s place.


JIMMY WALKER (-9, wins by two for his second win of the season)
There’s got to a good caption for this photo, but I can’t think of one. 

Event #28
The Memorial Tournament, Presented by Nationwide
Muirfield Village GC
Dublin, Ohio
$6.2 million

FIRST ROUND:

Golf returns to the north at Jack’s place. If you have to ask ‘Jack who?,’ you’re reading the wrong thread. Big increase in purse from this year (2015) to next–$6.2 million to $8.5 million. Additions to the starting lineup include DJ Trahan and Rod Pampling. Pampling finished top ten at the Byron Nelson last week and, as a result, gets a free ride into this one. Trahan earned back his Tour card with a win in Puerto Rico.

Well, it’s definitely an international field, certainly judging by the top ten as there are nine different flags among the fourteen in that group.

The man on top is from New Zealand by way of South Korea (because nobody gets out of the north, and the north’s best golfer, Kim Jong-Il, is dead), Danny Lee with a 6-under 66.

Even in pristine conditions, this course played over par as one of Nicklaus’ early designs has confounded golfers for over 40 years. As for Lee, except for two big time scrambles, he played flawlessly. The scrambles came at two, when his approach landed between the bunker and the green, he didn’t chip well but salvaged par from twelve feet, and at six when, after a poor chip with a lot of green to work with, which wasn’t the case at two, he salvaged par again, this time from fifteen feet. Of Lee’s six birdies, five came at other than par fives and four of those were on putts of over ten feet, including one from 37 feet at seventeen. But his best effort started his day off on the right foot as, though he yanked his tee shot, Lee hit a 7I approach from 180 that rolled to within a foot of the hole.

The next guy in line is Aussie Greg Chalmers. Why haven’t we heard much from Chalmers this season? Because he hasn’t done anything, his best finishes being 16th at the Valspar and 25th in Malaysia. And, though he’s cashed six times in nine starts, none of the other checks were for finishing any better than 50th. In real life, the 41-year old Chalmers has never won on the PGA Tour in 371 events and finished second only twice and not in six years. In any case, how did Chalmers shoot 67? With two bogeys, including mangling a second shot at the par-five fifteenth, just enough so he was in the rough and got too much grass on his third and came up short. He made some putts, including a 30-footer at thirteen and hit close twice, to five feet at both one and seventeen, birdies at both.

It’s Andrew Putnam, Ben Martin, Englishman Tommy Fleetwood and Mexican Carlos Ortiz in third, each with 68. Putnam shot 31 on the front, even after a three-putt bogey at the first. Martin was on his way to a solid finish with birdies at fifteen, sixteen and seventeen, the latter on a 34-foot twisting uphill putt, before over-shooting the green at eighteen as he was looking for his ball to back up to the tight right-side pin position and then missing a three-footer that would have saved par. Fleetwood recovered off a disastrous double-bogey at the par-five eleventh (which was the toughest par-five on The Tour by a long shot), when he chunked a 75 wedge shot into the creek, with birdies at four of the final five. And Ortiz did what Martin did at eighteen, except his chip was poor and he missed from eleven feet to save par.

The rest of the top ten is at 69 (Americans, except noted): Chris Kirk, Robert Streb, Tony Finau, Mark Leishman (Australia), Justin Rose (England), Francesco Molinari (Italy), Retief Goosen (S. Africa) and KJ Choi (S. Korea). Of that crew, Molinari looked well on his way to going low as he ran off five straight birdies starting at four but stalled out, generally playing fairways and greens bit never threatening the pin. After nearly holing out a bunker shot at the par-three sixteenth, Molinari paid another visit into the bunker at seventeen and hit a poor shot, making bogey.

 

SECOND ROUND:

How’s this for a start? 17-foot putt for a birdie. 7I from 175 to a foot and another birdie. 12-foot-putt for a birdie at three. 12-foot putt for a birdie at the par-three fourth. 3I from 232 to six feet and an eagle at five. 18-foot putt for birdie at six.

That’s how Bill Haas started his day, vaulting himself into the lead and fending off all challenges but one. Unfortunately, except for one occasion (seven feet at fourteen and his final birdie of the day) he never hit close the rest of the day and his putter, which did a yeoman job early on, at least kept up a string of pars. Haas’ only blemish came at the ninth when he pushed his tee shot well right and had to pitch out to the fairway and eventually made bogey. And one big save came at the par-five fifteenth. Knocked down by the trees and in the rough off the tee, Haas tried to advance his second shot to just short of the creek as there was no way he could get home in two. That would have left him about a 110 yard shot in. But he got too much on a 4I and his ball rolled into the creek. He hit his fourth to ten feet and made the par-saving putt. So, 65 for Haas and, at 7-under, is tied for the lead…

…with Steve Wheatcroft, who didn’t get off to anywhere near the start of Haas, but still played a bogey-free round of 65. Wheatcroft had an incredible approach game going today. Like Haas, he was spot-on at two with a 7I from 185 to just a foot. He also hit a three-quarter wedge from 108 to a foot at fourteen. But he topped that at the par-three twelfth with a 7I from 184 that somehow stayed on the edge of the cup. Couldn’t get any closer without going in.

After those two, first round leader Danny Lee didn’t improve on his 6-under score as he shot even-par 72. 13/14 fairways and only two scrambles among the fourteen pars. You thought he would have done better.

The rest of the top ten consists of eight players at 4-under: Patrick Rodgers (68), Harris English (68), Jordan Spieth (69), Francisco Molinari (70), Chris Kirk (70), Justin Rose (70), KJ Choi (70) and Tommy Fleetwood (71).

SHOT OF THE DAY:

Ryan Moore at eleven.

A 564-yard, par-five, it was the toughest par-five on The Tour (for those who don’t know, my fictitious golf world of the best to ever play. It’s available on the Skeetersoft Delphi board.) and by a wide margin. You know how most par-fives are the 15-18 handicap holes at most courses? By the way the pros have played it the first two rounds, it’s playing at “7.” Creek down the left. Then it bisects the fairway at about 320 and runs down the right before crossing in front of the green. So, though reachable in two for some, many pros will use something other than a driver off the tee.

More used a 2I off the tee then laid up with a 5I, looking to play a choked down wedge from about 75 to the back left pin location. He did better than that, holing out from 73 for eagle.

Though he finished poorly, with a bogey at thirteen, a double at fourteen and a bogey at sixteen, the eagle turned out to be a big help as scores of 73-73 saw Moore limp in under the cut line. Speaking of…

THE CUT LINE:

+2 with 72 others besides Moore making it to the weekend.

Some notables making an early trip to Memphis (or a week off) include Morgan Hoffmann, Jason Dufner, Matt Kuchar, Zac Blair, Dustin Johnson, John Senden and Daniel Berger. Rod Pampling, who earned his way in with a top ten finish last week at the Byron Nelson, is a goner as is Tiger Woods, who was a notable once.

 

THIRD ROUND:

Both overnight leaders, Bill Haas and Steve Wheatcroft, took a dump, Haas with a 3-over 75 and Wheatcroft with a 77, those scores dropping both men out of the top ten, 4-under for Haas, or five shots out of the lead, and 2-under for Wheatcroft, or kiss Sunday goodbye.

A quick look at both… Haas doubled the third after an approach shot into the water and finished with bogeys at sixteen and eighteen. Wheatcroft started bogey-bogey-double and like Haas, put his second into the water at three. Wheatcroft also doubled the par-five eleventh when he chunked his approach into the creek fronting the green.

The new leader is Chris Kirk as a 4-under 68 moved him to -9 and a one-shot lead going into tomorrow. Kirk had a couple good approaches—to two feet with a 7I at six and to four feet with a choked down wedge at nine, both birdies. He would have finished with a 66 or better but bogeyed the final two holes, landing in the fairway bunker at seventeen, missing the green then missing from four feet to save par. Then, at eighteen, it was two bunkers and a missed eleven-foot putt that would have salvaged par.

Kirk leads by a shot over Robert Streb and Danny Lee.

Streb shot 67, one off the round of the day (by David Lingmerth, who’s just outside the top ten). He finished with a bang by birdieing fifteen, sixteen and seventeen, all on putts of between nine and fourteen feet. So, no gimmes there.

Lee shot a more pedestrian 70. Highlights included a 23-foot putt for birdie at nine and another from about half that at seventeen, also for birdie.

After that, it’s Pat Perez (68), Tomas Aiken (68), Steve Stricker (69), Gary Woodland (69) and Francesco Molinari (70), all at -7, two shots back. And, after that, it’s Retief Goosen (67) and Colt Knost (69) at 6-under.

Some big names besides Lingmerth lurking just a shot outside the top ten are Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama and Justin Rose. Could be a heck of a horse race tomorrow.

 

FINAL ROUND:

First order of business… Overnight leader Chris Kirk had nothing today. A double at nine followed by two bogeys pretty well finished him off. The bogey at the par-five eleventh came on a chunked third shot into the creek fronting the hole and he reprised that effort three holes later when he pushed his approach, that one worth another double-bogey. A final round of 79 for Kirk—not quite the day’s worst. That was reserved for Ryo Ishikawa (82). But it was a fall from being the leader into a tie for 20th at 2-under.

That didn’t mean the final round wasn’t exciting as four players had at least a share of the lead at one time or another.

Jordan Spieth, who started at 5-under, four off the lead, was one. His eagle at five when he hit a driver to the corner of the dogleg at the par-five then put a 3I over the flag from 235 and made the 28-foot comebacker, kick-started his day. He’d eventually get to -9 after nearly holing out from 67 for eagle at the par-five eleventh, tapping in for birdie. That would give a piece of the lead.

Gary Woodland started his day at -7. Still at that score after eleven holes after two birdies and two bogeys, he birdied three of the next four, including medium-range putts at twelve and fourteen, to get to 10-under and share the lead.

Danny Lee, who started the day at 8-under, was in the second-to-last pairing. A 28-foot birdie putt at the par-five seventh after a poor approach followed by an 11-footer for birdie at eight moved Lee to -10, at which point he had the lead—for a little while.

While Kirk was melting down, his playing partner, Robert Streb, didn’t let it affect him as he hit to six feet and birdied the third then reached in two and birdied the fifth to get to -10. Bogeys at six and nine, both on poor approaches, slowed him down just a little as he hit close at eleven and made birdie then chipped in off the back of the green at the par-three twelfth and made another birdie.

Now, as Spieth was playing six groups in front of the leaders, he was done while the others had three or four holes to go. And, though he had some makeable putts, certainly by his standards, Spieth ran off pars after his birdie at eleven—at least until the eighteenth when he went after the far left pin with a 7I from 182 and flew the green. His chip ran a way on him and he two-putted for bogey. Though -9 certainly would have helped, the consolation prize was that he was the leader in the clubhouse at 8-under with playing partner Justin Rose. Rose had gotten to within a shot of the lead after a two-putt birdie at fifteen, but gave that shot back almost immediately when he pushed his tee shot a bit right at sixteen and landed in the back bunker, eventually making bogey.

We pick it up on seventeen with Woodland, playing two groups ahead of Lee and three ahead of Streb. Woodland’s tee shot just missed the fairway, but his second was a flyer that went about fifteen yards off the back and left him with a testy, downhill, short-sided chip. Which he did very well to hit to eight feet. But he missed his par putt. With Streb at -10 and Lee lurking nearby, Woodland knew he needed birdie at the last to have a chance. But, like Spieth, he went off the back of the green but managed to save his par with a chip to four feet. At 9-under, he was now the leader in the clubhouse.

As Woodland was wrapping it up, Lee hit a beauty of a 5I to a tight far left pin position at the 207-yard sixteenth and made the nine-foot birdie putt to get to 10-under. As Lee was hitting his approach into the seventeenth green, Streb was under-clubbing a 6I into the pond at sixteen. The good news was the recovery he made to save bogey as he had to drop in front of the pond and got up and down from 92, making a nine-footer to drop only a single stroke.

But Lee just about put the tourney away with a 7I from 173 at eighteen to a foot and a tap-in birdie at eighteen to get a two-shot lead at 11-under.

Streb was wrapping it up at seventeen, his tee shot in the rough, just missing the right fairway bunker and his second landing in the bunker fronting the green. But he gave himself a sliver of a chance by making the sand save.

On to eighteen and Streb needed eagle. He hit a nice tee shot to the right center of the fairway, giving himself a great look at the back left pin position. But he pushed his 8I from 162. Though safely on the green, it certainly wasn’t in the hole. And, at 39 feet, sole possession of second place was probably a goner, too. He two-putted to split the place and show pools with Streb at 9-under with Spieth and Rose a shot farther back.

After those five, Retief Goosen (72), Colt Knost (72) and Thomas Aiken (73) offered no challengers to the leaders but still tied for sixth at 6-under, five shots back. Tony Finau (70) and Sam Saunders (70) tied for ninth at -5.

For Lee, it’s his second win of the season, the McGladrey being his first. It also moved him into third in the Fed Ex standings.

SHOT OF THE DAY:

Lee’s approach at eighteen.

REAL LIFE:

David Lingmerth defeated Justin Rose in a three-hole playoff to win at 15-under. In the replay, Lingmerth (73 in the final round after a third round 66) finished just outside the top ten at 4-under, tied with six others for eleventh place.

Lee missed the cut by two. It happens like that sometimes.

Common names in the top ten included Rose who, as mentioned, lost in the playoff, Spieth, who finished tied for third two shots back, and Finau, who tied for eighth at -11.

DANNY LEE (-11, wins by two for his second victory of the season)
That’s an upset Ricky Fowler saying, “You beat me and I’ll beat you.”
Of course that’s not true. They’re really good friends and they’re just horsing around
on the driving range prior to the last President’s Cup.
Besides, at 1-under, Fowler beat himself and didn’t need Lee’s help. 

Event #29
Fed Ex St. Jude Classic
TPC Southwind
Memphis, Tennessee
$6 million

FIRST ROUND:

With the US Open next up on the docket, there aren’t a lot of big names here. Mickelson is. McDowell is. But there are a lot of spots open for, let’s say, some of the lesser lights to play and win a full-purse/points PGA Tour event. Because while events like Sanderson Farms and Puerto Rico still include the two-year exemption, you still aren’t eligible for The Masters with a win. This weekend, you are.

David Hearn and Glen Day are setting the early pace, each with rounds of 5-under 65. Hearn started his day with a pair of birdies while Day had four birdies on the back nine.

Five more are tied at 66: Jonathan Byrd, Webb Simpson, Fabian Gomez, Brendon de Jonge and Brian Harman. Harman birdied four in a row starting at nine, gave one back with a bogey at thirteen but came back to birdie the 239-yard, par-three fourteenth.

Another eight more are tied at 67: Charlie Wi, Neal Lancaster, Kevin Chappell, Jon Curran, Scott Pinckney, Kyle Reifers, Austin Cook and Padraig Harrington. Both Wi and Chappell finished with four straight birdies to turn around over-par rounds while the 52-year old Lancaster, who split time between the regular and senior tours, not playing much at either, is playing in only his second PGA Tour event after picking up a small check at New Orleans, which is better than what he actually did, which was missing the cut. And which he did at all four events he played at on the main tour. So, that makes him ahead of the game.

 

SECOND ROUND:

Yesterday’s leader–well, one of them anyway, is today’s goner as Glen Day, who shot a 65 yesterday, shot 78 today and missed the cut.

Yesterday, Day had five birdies and no bogeys. Today, he had no birdies. Which would have been a round of 70 had it been all pars. But he had four bogeys and two doubles, the one at eighteen, when he pulled his approach into the water, making the difference between the 49-year old earning a check and getting an early start to some time off as he’s not eligible for the upcoming US Open.

David Hearn was the other first-round leader. And he’s still there after a round of 67, tied at 8-under with Jason Bohn. Hearn had four birdies on the front side which were tempered, unfortunately, by back-to-back bogeys at nine and ten. It might be nice to know what, exactly, he did, but as Hearn is top ten in greens but middle of the pack in putting, it’s a good guess that there might have been a three-putt in there.

Bohn shot a day’s best 64. And that came with two bogeys. And, remember, with two fewer par-fives than most courses, that means that much more work as these guys eat up many of the par-fives. Bohn birdied seven of the dozen par-fours.

After that, it’s Scott Pinckney (66), Brendon de Jonge (67) and Webb Simpson (67) at 7-under. Pinckney would have been tied for the lead if not for a bogey at eighteen. Simpson finished with three consecutive bogeys while de Jonge managed to play 3-under today with four bogeys.

Fabian Gomez (68) is in sixth at -6 with Jason Kokrak (66), Kevin Chappell (68), Austin Cook (68) and Brian Harman (69) rounding out the top ten at 5-under.

THE CUT LINE:

+2 with a very large crew of 89 sticking around for the weekend. For the record, in the real world, the cut was 1-over and, in fantasy-land, there is no secondary cut.

Some of the early leavers will head to Chambers Bay for some early practice while others will have next week off. Besides Glen Day (because, if I just said “Day,” some might think of that other Day–Jason I think his name is) and his fall from grace–which might trigger some golf fans to think of Branden Grace, who’s not in the field this week as he’s generally playing on the European Tour–and he took the week off there, too. One man who thought he might have picked up some easy money this week but missed the cut by a shot was Phil Mickelson.

Other than a second place finish at The Masters, which might make him forget about some of the other tournaments, Mickelson’s year has been mediocre. Before the Masters, he missed the cut at the two Texas events in which he played (Texas Open and Houston) then took three weeks off and missed the cut at The Players Championship before finishing sixteenth at the Wells Fargo and well down the leaderboard (57th) at The Memorial. And, though no one will ever have to ‘run a benefit’ for Mickelson, he’s in unfamiliar territory considering his career record: 74th in money and 89th in Fed Ex points.

Again, there weren’t a lot of big names in this tourney. But, other notables leaving early include Graeme McDowell, Stephen Bowditch, Spencer Levin and two-time Tour winner this year Jamie Donaldson.

 

THIRD ROUND:

Justin Leonard started the day at 1-under, or seven shots out of the lead. He bogeyed the first hole. But, after that, he went on a tear that would make a seasoned poker player drool as he birdied the remainder of the front nine, going to the turn in 28. For the moment, it put him near the top of the leaderboard (in this game, which goes hole-by-hole when tracking players, Leonard, 21 groups in front of the leaders, was already done when, in real life and assuming ten-minute tee times, the leaders had played about two holes or so). It also started a lot of people thinking, Leonard included, about 59. Maybe he thought too much or maybe it was just a matter of being unable to keep up the torrid pace of the front nine but all Leonard could muster up on the back nine was a birdie at the lone par-five at sixteen among eight pars. Even so, he shot a tournament best 62 and, with 40 others still out on the course, only one finished the day better with another tied.

Jason Bohn was one of the co-leaders coming in. With another eighteen holes under his belt, he’s the sole leader and by three shots after a round of 66. He birdied three of the first five, was slowed down a bit by bogeys at eleven and thirteen before making birdie at the final two to pad his lead.

The other co-leader was Canadian David Hearn. Unfortunately, he went into a funk in the middle of his round when he bogeyed five out of seven starting at five including three in a row starting at seven. Even with that ignominious run, he still managed a 2-over 72 as it could have been far worse. At -6, he’s tied for sixth, six shots out of the lead.

The man tied with Leonard is Austin Cook. Where most of Leonard’s career is behind him, most of the 24-year old Cook’s appears to be in front of him. Turning pro in 2014 after a solid college career, the first event he played was here in Memphis last year and as a Monday qualifier. Did well, too, finishing tied for thirteenth. He played on a satellite tour after that before going to Web.com Q-school and didn’t do well, finishing tied for 130th, which limited his playing opportunities. His next events were also Monday qualifiers (at Houston, where he tied for eleventh, which got him a nice check but little else as only top ten guarantees a pass into the next event, then at the Byron Nelson where he missed the cut, then here again where he finished tied for 22nd, then a sixth at the Barbasol, which is played concurrently with the Open Championship, which got him into the Canadian Open, where he finished seventh, which begat the Barracuda, which is the modified Stableford event held at Tahoe before qualifying for the Wyndham while playing in some Web.com events after that with negligible success as he actually did better on the PGA Tour). Looking into the future, after a fifth in Panama on the Web.com Tour in 2016, Cook has done little (one small check and two cuts plus a missed PGA Tour cut at Sanderson Farms, which he presumably Monday-qualified for as, save for maybe a sponsor’s exemption, there’s no other way he’d be allowed to play).

Anyway, Cook shot a 66, including five birdies and a 30 front side. A top ten here and he’ll be in Connecticut in two weeks. If not, he’ll be playing for shaving cream his next time out.

Scott Pinckney (69) is in fourth at 8-under with Brian Harman (68) at -7. Jason Kokrak and Kevin Chappell (both with 69) are tied with Hearn for sixth at -6 with a group of six at -5: Champions Tour eligible Neal Lancaster (66), Brian Davis (67), Billy Hurley (68), Chez Reavie (69), Fabian Gomez (71) and Webb Simpson (72).

 

FINAL ROUND:

Let’s just say that, after coming into the final eighteen with a three-shot lead, it was Jason Bohn’s to lose. And he fended off challengers, starting with Brendon de Jonge’s 30 front side. Then, with Kevin Chappell inching forward and David Hearn and then rookie Austin Cook starting to make serious inroads, Bohn fell apart.

de Jonge started ten pairings in front of and eight shots behind Bohn. He birdied five on the front side including both par-threes to get within three of Bohn, who was just getting underway.

But, with birdies at three and nine, Bohn opened up more daylight on a now irrelevant (but highly-paid) de Jonge while also having three shots on Cook and at least five to everybody else.

Just thinking as I write this… Writing these quick play tourneys is not unlike baseball re-creations of yesterday. You know, make a story out of basic information. So, here goes:

Starting six shots out of the lead and playing three groups in front of the leaders, Hearn birdied the par-five third and followed that by hitting a baby draw into the tight pin position behind the front bunker at the 198-yard fourth and birdied that, too. He went back-to-back at six and seven, seven being a lengthy par-four of 490 yards. Though generally middle of the pack, seven was playing as one of the tougher holes today. Maybe it was the back pin placement forcing many to roll it close. Anyway, that got Hearn to 10-under and within three of the lead. Unfortunately, he gave one back after landing in the front bunker at eight. Even so, he was 3-under at the turn and within shouting distance.

Cook got off to a slow start with a bogey at one when he tried to draw his tee shot at the doglegged par-four but his ball hung out to the right and ended up in one of the three fairway bunkers. He also bogeyed the fourth but birdied the par-five third to mitigate that slow start somewhat. But, he bounced back superbly with birdies at six, eight and nine, just clearing the front bunker with a 9I at eight—the one that Hearn landed in—as Cook birdied the 172-yard par-three.

That got Cook to 11-under and within two of Bohn but soon to be three as Bohn hit a fairly safe second shot that skirted the pond fronting the left side of the green but made a 20-footer for birdie.

Might as well mention Justin Leonard now as he was tied with Cook starting the day. But back-to-back bogeys at five and six took him out of the mix for good as he had a bogey and birdie on the back nine and finished at 7-under and tied for seventh, his best finish since a thirteenth at the McGladrey earlier in the season and finally earning something other than endorsement money after seven missed cuts.

Bohn’s three-shot lead dwindled to one with a two-shot swing at ten. Even with his length off the tee (he averaged 291 this week), fairways that were rolling and a creek at about 330, Cook went with the driver at ten. He hit close enough with a short iron and made his birdie putt while, about fifteen minutes later, Bohn put his approach into the left front bunker and made bogey.

Cook parred the eleventh and twelfth while Bohn parred the eleventh. At twelve, a dogleg right with water all the way down and fronting the green, Bohn stayed dry on his tee shot but hit his second fat and into that water, making double-bogey. And, now, Bohn was playing from behind for the first time since the seventeenth hole of the second round.

Cook extended his lead to two with a birdie at the par-four thirteenth.

Chappell and Hearn were in the same pairing. And, though Hearn was having a bit more early success, Chappell got to 9-under with a thirteenth hole birdie, which tied him with Hearn. As they were playing about two-three holes in front of Bohn, Chappell dropped a shot at fifteen when he steered just a bit too far from the creek that bisects the fairway and which frames the right side of the green and made bogey while Hearn landed safely on the green and made a twelve-footer for birdie to get to 10-under or within two of Cook. For the record, while it helped Hearn, Chappell’s bogey essentially eliminate any chance he had of winning. He’d birdie the par-five sixteenth–as would Hearn–and would finish at -9.

So, with Hearn at now inching closer to the lead at 11-under, Cook took a look at the leaderboard, saw his name at the top with Hearn and Bohn close by and started getting the yips.

Trying to steer clear of the pond on the right side of the par-three fourteenth, Cook put his ball in the back left bunker and ended up making bogey. Sufficiently rattled, he pulled his shot at fifteen and made bogey there, too. He didn’t get one back at sixteen, which was only the easiest hole this week. That would have been a help. Instead, Hearn was wrapping it up, parring the final two to finish at -11. Having dropped two in short order, Cook was also at -11. And, a few minutes behind, Bohn also failed to birdie the sixteenth and was also at -11.

Seventeen is a long, narrow, somewhat downhill par-four of 480. There’s a creek that crosses the fairway. But, at about 350, it’s there pretty much for decoration. What’s not is the front pin as, off a bit of a downhill lie, it might be difficult to get the approach to check up. Cook parred while, about fifteen minutes later, Bohn had trouble getting his ball to stop. Rolling to near the back of the green, he three-putted for bogey.

Eighteen is a hard dogleg left of 456. The fairway cants a little in that direction. And don’t try to cut it as water runs down the left side and could affect both the tee as well as approach shots. If you try and steer clear of the water, bunkers await at 265, 285 and 308. Maybe it’s best to go with a 3W. Then again, with the pin at its Sunday best, meaning back left, the more distance off the tee, the merrier. ‘Tis a conundrum. In trying to avoid the water, Cook went a bit too far right and into one of the bunkers. Coming up just short on his approach, he chipped but not close enough and ended up two-putting for bogey to fall out of the lead. Bohn, on the other hand, needed birdie. He hit a fine drive. But his approach wasn’t quite good enough as he came up a bit short and missed from about fifteen feet for what would have been a tie and a playoff.

So, after sweating it out for about a half hour, the 35-year old Hearn came up a winner for the first time in his PGA Tour career covering 162 events dating back to 2002. Let’s just say that Hearn’s career has been a checkered one as he never even hit the top ten until 2011 and, in 139 starts at AAA, he won but once and that was eleven years ago. So, though he had a full card coming in one the basis of finishing 55th in the Fed Ex points list last year, Hearn earned a two-year exemption with the win.

It’s Hearn (65) by a shot at -11 with Cook (69) and Bohn (72) tied for second a shot back with Cook’s top ten earning him a spot into the Travelers in two weeks. Chappell (67) was two back with Fabian Gomez (67) and Brian Harman tied for fifth at -8. The rest of the top ten was at 7-under: Brooks Koepka (66), Brendon de Jonge (67), Scott Brown (67) and Justin Leonard (72).

DAVID HEARN (-11)
Shaking hands with last week’s winner, Danny Lee.
Then, maybe next week, Hearn will shake hands with the US Open winner. 

Event #30
US Open
Chambers Bay
University Place, Washington
$10 million

FIRST ROUND:

First, hats off to George and the rest of the cast of characters at ASG for really paying attention as they could have made this course the same par 70 layout every day. But, on Thursday and Saturday, the first hole played as a long par-four with the eighteenth a par five, and vice versa on Friday and Sunday with the fifteenth playing anywhere from 123-246. And, if you remember, Jordan Spieth, the eventual winner, called the par-four version of eighteen “…the dumbest hole I’ve ever played in my life.” That was picked up by an on-course microphone as was he talking to his caddie, Michael Greller. In fairness, he qualified that statement after the round. “I think the hole doesn’t make sense because you can hit it down the left center of the fairway and still end up in the right bunker in trouble,” Spieth said. “There’s a group of about 10, 12 guys that can fly at 310 yards that have an entirely different hole to play there. For anybody else you have to hit it in a 5- or 6-yard area. And if it’s going to be a par-4 and you’re going to bring that other bunker into play, I think the tee should have been moved up more. But I’m not the one that’s putting the course together. I just didn’t know where I could hit that tee shot. And I wasn’t going to hit a 3-iron into a 550 yard par-4. I wasn’t going to hit 3-iron off the tee and then hit 3-wood.”

Anyway, this course is the same for everyone, meaning a big pain in the ass because the USGA doesn’t want to see players shooting 15-under.

All of that said, JB Holmes is the first round leader with a 5-under 65. With the first hole playing as the long par-four, Holmes made birdie thanks to an 8I approach just over the stick and an eight-footer coming back. His putter helped him to cash in for birdie at eight, the first of only two par-fives (eighteen being the other). In the rough off the tee at the 601-yard hole, he got to within 20 yards of the green with his second but faced a testy uphill pitch and run. Which rolled away from the pin to the tune of 22 feet. And which he sank anyway for birdie. Holmes made back-to-back birdies at eleven and twelve. Talk about “Mutt and Jeff” stuff as eleven was playing at 524 with Holmes hitting a 6I from 213 to fourteen feet and, at the drivable twelfth, even at 335 and a bit uphill, the green included, Holmes drove the green but was faced with 119 feet of putt, so said Shotlink. He hit a hell of a lag to four feet and made the birdie. At fifteen, playing at 170 today, Holmes made his lone bogey as he barely held the back of the green then three-putted from just outside of 30 feet, his first putt–downhill–running away from him. Finally, at eighteen, playing as a par-five of 621 yards, Holmes pushed his tee shot right and couldn’t carry the massive bunker. In fairness, he probably would have needed a Howitzer. But, as a three-shotter, he hit his second to the middle of the fairway and got up and down from 139, converting on the eleven-footer.

After Holmes, it’s Graeme McDowell and Brad Elder at 66. McDowell we know about. He also had a nice little run as he birdied three out of four starting at eight. Up and down from 58 to three feet at eight. Up and down from 115 to three feet at ten. And a 3W out of the rough from 244 to eight feet at eleven.

Elder, on the other hand, is a 40-year old journeyman who hasn’t had a Tour card in seven years, getting here through the local and sectional qualifiers. After a 4I out of the rough at one to twelve feet under the flag and a birdie, Elder hit long and rolled off the back of the green at three and missed for seven feet to save par. Two holes later and he had another bogey, this on a three-putt from just eight feet, missing from just two feet to save par. And Elder figured this opportunity to accomplish something would end like the rest. But, after making it to the green in two at eight and a birdie, he lit up the back nine, 31 considered to be “lighting it up” around these parts. Twelve feet at eleven. Drove the green at twelve and, like McDowell, lag-putted from the next county at twelve. 9I to eight feet at fourteen. And a PW out of the sand from 117 to six feet at sixteen. All birdies.

Then, it’s Daniel Summerhays at 67 and a truckload at 68 with lots of famous names and one “who?” Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Matt Kuchar, Adam Scott, Eric Compton, Louis Oosthuizen, Thongchai Jaidee, Bernd Wiesberger Andy Sullivan and Josh Persons.

Josh Persons? He’s a 31-year old journeyman. Hell, he makes Elder look like a Hall of Famer. Yeah, he came out of the local and sectional qualifying, too. But he was barely hanging on on the Mackenzie Tour, which is a PGA minor league north of the border. If the Web.com Tour is AAA, Mackenzie might be AA. Might be. Put it this way: Persons played in nine Web.com events this year prior to making it into the US Open. He missed five cuts, finished tied for 44th once and nothing else better than 69th. You know those $15 an hour minimum wage protests? For all he’s made this year (about $7,000), he’s front and center. For the record, at even par with three to play today, he got up and down from 99 out of the sand at sixteen to three feet. Birdie. Very nice! And, he actually reached in two at eighteen, two-putting from 57 feet for birdie. Again, very nice!

CHARL SCHWARTZEL:

He’ll get his own little chapter today.

2-under going into eighteen, even though he hit his tee shot into the fescue, he was able to advance it to where he had what looked like a routine 9I into the green from 140. But he launched that a bit long; it rolled down off the back of the green and he was faced with a precarious uphill short-sided pitch off a buried lie. Which he flubbed. Shot number five was finessed a bit too much and he came up short and still in the rough and buried in the deep grass again. He chopped at shot number six and that went nowhere. Seven didn’t get out of the rough, either. Eight on and a six-foot putt for a quadruple-bogey nine.

So much for 2-under as it became 2-over in the space of a couple minutes.

SHOTS OF THE DAY:

Charley Hoffman at twelve. As mentioned, a drivable par-four, even with the uphill and even at 335 with the pin in the back as it’s 295 to the front of the green and a well-hit driver will roll up. Hoffman rolled his driver to twelve feet left and just under the hole and made the eagle putt. He shot 71.

Ryan Palmer at twelve. In the same neighborhood as Hoffman’s tee shot, Palmer’s ball was seven feet to the left of that and he made the nineteen-foot putt for eagle. He, too, shot 71.

Joost Luiten at sixteen. That’s the hole up against Puget Sound with the freight tracks in between. Playing today at 376 with the tee and pin up, Luiten just carried the large waste bunker on the right, which is about 295 in the air, then holed out from 73 for eagle. That got him back to even-par, which is where the Dutchman finished.

Nick Hardy at sixteen. An amateur who qualified (and, in real life, six made the cut, the most in nearly 50 years), the man who played his collegiate golf at Illinois hit more to the center of the fairway than did Luiten, merely skirting with the bunker. He holed out from 68 for eagle. Though the eagle brought him back to even-par for the back nine, Hardy was shaky early on with bogeys at four of the first five holes, three on three-putts, and ended up with a 74. In real life and in a form of schadenfreude, quite a few golfers had Hardy to thank for making bogey at eighteen on Friday. Had Hardy, playing in the final group that day, made par, the cut line would have been 4-over and guys like Sergio Garcia, Webb Simpson and Jimmy Walker would have been shut out. But the bogey slid the cut line to +5, making fifteen other golfers quite happy.

 

SECOND ROUND:

Nobody went low today, certainly not the 65 that JB Holmes shot yesterday. 3-under was it, accomplished by Ryan Palmer, Charl Schwartzel, Michael Putnam and Jimmy Gunn. More about Schwartzel and Gunn in just a bit. In any case, Holmes’ 68 guaranteed he’d hold onto the lead for another day. The even better news is that, at -7, he leads by four.

Holmes birdied the first, which was playing as a par-five today. As a four, it’s over 500 yards. As a five, it was playing at 572 today and reachable for most, Holmes included. He had back-to-back bogeys at six (poor approach) and seven (poor tee shot). But he bounced back with a birdie at the par-five eighth as he hit two blasts at the 591-yard hole. That’s the good news. The bad news is that there were no more par-fives after that so it was time to go work. And Holmes played sensibly–fairways and greens with just one scramble at thirteen where he salvaged par from sixteen feet. He also hit close at ten and fourteen and made birdie at both.

Brad Elder is still surprising everyone, himself probably more than anyone. After a first hole birdie, he bogeyed three of the next five and after playing reasonably conservatively and, like Holmes, with just one scramble after the bogeys, hit close at the par-three seventeenth and made birdie. So, while he was 1-over on the day, he’s still tied for second at 3-under. And, as he was the first to post his score, he’ll be in the final twosome tomorrow–something out of “Tin Cup.”

Dustin Johnson is the other man at -3 after a round of 68 which included four bogeys. But he finished under par thanks to a ten-foot putt for birdie at sixteen and a 30-footer at the last.

After that, the rest of the top ten is populated by nine guys at 2-under: Ryan Palmer (67), Ryan Moore (68), Cameron Smith (68), Henrik Stenson (69), Zach Johnson (69), Bubba Watson (69), Jordan Spieth (70), Josh Persons (70) and Graeme McDowell (72). Lots of big names there.

If you remember yesterday’s debacle at eighteen, let’s just say that Schwartzel put all that behind him as he was one of four who shot the round of the day. So, not only did that put him just outside the top ten at 1-under, he got off to a tremendous start by playing the first three holes in 4-under. As noted, the first played a lot easier as a par-five, his second rolling just past the back left pin location and he made the eight-foot putt for eagle. He also hit to ten feet at two and three and made birdies at both. And, though he didn’t heave the meltdown of yesterday, Schwartzel’s back nine left a bit to be desired. Par should have been a gimme at the drivable twelfth. But he hit over the green and his pitch to the steeply-pitched green ran away from him, as in 50 feet past, and he three-putted. He also three-putted at thirteen, this time from just thirteen feet. And, once again, he was off the back of the green at eighteen. But Schwartzel didn’t try and get too fine, pitching to the center of the green and two-putting for bogey.

Born in Scotland, Jimmy Gunn moved here at age 27 to try and play professionally. Try, as he’s currently playing on the Gateway Tour, which is probably golf’s version of A-ball. Amazingly, he went through the qualifying for this tourney and made it in as an alternate. Even more amazingly, he not only made the cut but finished tied for 27th, an excellent showing for a guy with precious little on his resume.

As noted, Jimmy Gunn was one of those at 67 today. That included three birdies in a row starting at eleven, two on approaches to eight and ten feet and he also drove the green at twelve and two-putted. A three-putt at fifteen and two trips into the sand at sixteen, both bogeys, set him back a bit. And, as it turned out, his ten-foot birdie putt at eighteen was the difference between playing on the weekend and making an early trip back to the minors. Speaking of:

THE CUT LINE:

It’s top 60 and ties here. The “and anyone within ten strokes of the lead disappeared three years ago. Which wouldn’t have mattered as “within ten strokes” was also the cut line–3-over, with 62 soldiering on.

Those who didn’t make it include Sergio Garcia, Jim Furyk, Rory McIlroy, Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Lee Westwood, Tiger Woods, Brandt Snedeker and Phil Mickelson. In addition, there were two sad stories as Tjaart van der Waalt and Martin Kaymer also missed the cut by a single shot. van der Waalt missed from four feet for par at eighteen while Kaymer’s 8I approach spun back just off the front of the green. But he had a good look and chipped—quite well, too—to just a foot. And he babied the putt and missed it.

SHOTS OF THE DAY:

Troy Kelly at twelve.

Jerry Kelly isn’t in the field but Troy Kelly is. And, though Jerry is the better golfer, Troy was the one who made it through the qualifying process. A 37-year old University of Washington grad with an arthritic hip, Kelly can very easily be classified as a journeyman, his lone claim to fame losing in a playoff to Ted Potter, Jr. at the 2012 Greenbrier after Potter birdied the final four holes of regulation to force a playoff.

Today, Kelly drove the twelfth and made a 35-foot putt for eagle. He also shot 68 today and is well in the mix at 1-under.

Hunter Mahan at three. 210, par-three, pin in the back left with balls that roll out feeding that way. Mahan did just that, acing the hole with a 6I. Mahan shot 69 today and is at even-par for the tournament.

Three groups later, Brendon Grace did exactly what Mahan did, also with a 6I. As he had five bogeys, that was definitely the highlight of his day as his 73 after a opening round 74 sent him packing.

Bill Haas at twelve. The others were just pretenders compared to this.

281 with the pin in the front, Haas not only drove the short par four but his ball rolled in for both a hole-in-one as well as a double-eagle. The good news was that, with five bogeys sprinkled on his scorecard, Haas still shot 70. The bad news was that he shot 77 yesterday and is a goner. The other bad news is that, as this isn’t a PGA event, Quicken Loans didn’t pay off any mortgages today.

STEVE MARINO:

Poor Steve Marino. With five solid years starting in 2007, he had a pretty good career going. But he got hurt in 2012–something about a bone contusion on the tip of his tibia and his femur (thanks, Wiki–we hope) and wasn’t the same guy and ended up losing his card, finally getting it back this year (as in 2016, because I often write as if this were 2015) after a good year in AAA. He might have had a two-year exemption in the works but just missed after losing in a playoff in Puerto Rico this year (again, 2016). For the moment, he’s riding the hairy edge as far as if he’ll keep his card or not because, other than that second place finish, he hasn’t been on the good side of 30th (at least at the time I’m writing this, which is late April) and is at 116 in Fed Ex points. At posting date: Amid a 72nd, five cuts and a withdrawal, Marino managed to tie for twelfth at the Byron Nelson and is at 131st in points, which would keep him at conditional status, I think.

Anyway, Marino came into today at 1-under and was at that score as late as the sixth hole. Even flying the green at seven and making bogey wasn’t a big deal as he knew, even with an early-ish tee time, he had some padding at least as it applied to the cut line. But you can see where this is going.

Marino missed the green at nine and ten and made bogey. He rolled off the back of the green at twelve but still could have taken three to get down and parred. But his downhill putt to a front pin placement kept rolling–right off the green. And he bogeyed. And then he three-putted from off the back at fifteen for yet another bogey. Then, he missed the green not too terribly far right but took a flyer out of the fescue and ended up with double-bogey. Not done yet, he missed short and right at the par-three seventeenth, landing in the bunker. Faced with a difficult sand shot, he bogeyed there, too.

So, 1-under coming in and even-par after six became a 78, 7-over and sayonara. Back to the grind.

 

THIRD ROUND:

Not only is JB Holmes’ four-shot lead gone, he’s now trailing by three. And, on a day when the average score was a bit over 72 (or 2-over par), Holmes shot 71. So, the four-shot swing really isn’t on him.

Matter of fact, credit should be given to the man who shot the round of the tourney so far, Ryan Moore, with a 7-under 63 to move to -9. Putting it another way, no one was within four shots of Moore today.

Moore, who won in Malaysia earlier this season (both here and actual as art imitated life) and who has four other top-tens and only two missed cuts to his name, had his putter working on the front nine with birdie putts of 26 feet at four and 35 feet at five. He also had a beauty of a lag putt at eight when he just limped onto the green at the par-five and two-putted from 107 feet, cleaning up a five-footer for the birdie. He also hit to three feet at two. Moore’s only blemish came when he hit wide of the green at the 504-yard eleventh, couldn’t chip close and made bogey. But he finished with a bang. Clearing the waste bunker near the tracks at sixteen, he got up and down from 65 for birdie. Seventeen was a dinky little par-three of 122 (today, as it can play as long as 218). But sometimes, those dinky little par-threes can cause havoc as many of these guys don’t take a full cut. Anyway, right over the flag with a PW and a twelve-footer coming back. Then, at eighteen, which was a par-five today (it was a four yesterday and will be tomorrow, Moore went a bit right off the tee and didn’t clear the bunker. But he hit safely for two and got up and down from 108 with three and four, number four being a ten-footer for birdie.

As for Holmes, after an even-par front, he bogeyed four in a five-hole stretch starting at eleven, three on poor tee shots, including fifteen, which is a par-three, and one on a poor approach. But that was tempered a bit by a birdie at twelve, as he drove the green and two-putted from 93 feet, and with a couple late birdies to close out the round and save Holmes from as much as a ten-shot swing. At sixteen, he socked the daylights out of his drive, so much so that he had just 45 yards left and one-hopped a choked down wedge that stopped four feet from the cup. Like Moore, eighteen was a tee shot into the bunker, a safe second and up and down from the exact same distance–108–but left of the pin and he made birdie with a nineteen-foot putt. He’s at 6-under.

After those two, Henrik Stenson inched up into third with a 68. He’s at 4-under. Damn near drove the green at sixteen, too. And it’s about 350 to the front. Landed in the bunker, which isn’t waste anymore that close to the green (separated by a sliver of rough, it’s actually a different bunker) and got up and down out of the sand on a shot where he could barely see the top of the stick. Stenson also made it to the green in two at eighteen and two-putted for birdie from eighteen feet.

A 67 saw Eric Compton move up seventeen spots to fourth at 3-under, six shots back. Doesn’t take much around here, so it seems. Compton was hitting them close, too, nearly holing out with a 6I at the first from 186. Then, four feet at the 171-yard, par-three third and, more impressively, to five feet at the fifteenth and only because that par-three was playing at 257 and which can play as little as about half that. This course reminds me of the Bill Veeck-owned Cleveland Indians of the late 1940s. Until MLB quickly told him it was a no-no, the outfield fence was chain link and on wheels and he used to move it in and out depending on the opponent.

Also at 4-under are Charl Schwartzel, who moved up nine spots after a 68 and Dustin Johnson, who slipped back two but is hoping for a better ending than the actual one. He shot even-par 70.

After that, George Coetzee (68) and Webb Simpson (69) are tied for seventh at 2-under with Justin Rose (69), Kevin Kisner (69), Zach Johnson (71) and journeyman (and that’s being kind) Josh Persons (71) tied for ninth at -1. With a seven-shot swing today, all still have a chance.

SHOT OF THE DAY:

Bernd Wiesberger at twelve. The man from Austria drove the green. All tried and about half reached or stayed on, Wiesberger being one. Three yards short of pin high (which would have been 321) and a bit to the right, Wiesberger made the fourteen-footer for eagle, which was certainly a help as he shot 70 and is at 3-over for the tournament.

 

FINAL ROUND:

Ryan Moore’s 63 of yesterday not only made JB Holmes’ four-shot lead disappear, it left Moore with a three-shot lead over Holmes and five over Henrik Stenson.

Playing in the final twosome, Holmes made a quick trip into Witness Protection with three bogeys and a double as part of a 39 front, then started the back nine with a bogey and a double on his way to a forgettable round of 76 which not only bounced him out of the top ten but, at 1-over, on the wrong side of par. And to think that Holmes was 7-under after the second round.

Stenson shot a 72—better than Holmes. But -2 for the tourney left him in a seven-man tie for second with none of the seven ever being in contention as Moore cruised to his first major championship.

Dustin Johnson, who started six back, birdied the second and third, both on putts of about 30 feet with the one at two coming from off the back of the green. Holmes missed both the fairway and green at one and started backing up right away. And Moore’s three-shot lead starting the day was now four.

It became five with a 3I approach from 207 to eleven feet and a birdie at four.

It went to six when Holmes ran his first putt at six eight feet past and he missed that for par. Playing a bit more than a hole ahead, Johnson disappeared at about the same time as he went well left off the tee at seven, merely tried to hit back to the fairway but rolled through into the fescue. Off the back in three. Didn’t get on in four from out of the deep rough. Did get on in five and two-putted for a three-bagger.

It went to seven when Holmes ended up on the wrong side of the green at nine and was facing a nearly 40 yard bunker shot that he had to get up quickly. He didn’t get anywhere near close and three-putted for a double-bogey.

So, Moore led by seven and, at 9-under, which is where he started the day, he hadn’t had to do a damn thing.

As Moore stepped up to the tee at fourteen, he still led by five as George Coetzee, playing two holes ahead, started to make a little move with, first, an 8I approach at fourteen to seven feet and a birdie, then, at the par-three fifteenth, sank an eighteen-foot putt for another birdie. How did Holmes respond? First, at fourteen, he pulled his 5I approach left and into the bunker and made bogey.

Then, at fifteen, he hit just over the back of the green into the fescue, followed that with a thinly hit chip that rolled off the green and into the front bunker and in what could be considered a decent sand save as he hit to three feet and salvaged bogey. No, it won’t go down as a sand save.

By the sixteenth, Moore was just saying to himself please don’t fuck this up before getting on the green in regulation, then three-putting from just nineteen feet as he ran his first five feet past and missed for par.

As he stepped to the seventeenth tee, he looked over at the scoreboard and saw that Coetzee had hit into the bunker at the par-three seventeenth and made bogey before flying the green with his third at the par-five last, not chipping close and making another bogey. Well, he didn’t see all the details, just the bogey. Now, with his lead at four and two to play, Moore finally rested easy.

Or so he thought, as he pushed his 4I tee shot into the bunker but followed that up with a beauty of a sand save as he hit a long bunker shot to three feet. Then, at eighteen, it was in the bunker off the tee. But two and three were hit safely and he two-putted for par and the win.

So, Moore sweated out a four-shot win with a final round of 73 and a final score of 6-under.

After that, seven were tied at -2, including a journeyman who got in as an alternate, Jimmy Gunn (67), Ian Poulter (67), Zach Johnson (69), Justin Rose (69), George Coetzee (70), Eric Compton (71) and Henrik Stenson (72)

The rest of the under-par crew consisted of four tied for ninth at -1: Ben Martin (66, and which was the round of the day and was equaled by three others and who also had the shot of the day), Brendon Todd (68), Robert Streb (69) and Dustin Johnson (72).

SHOTS OF THE DAY:

Jason Day at sixteen.

Right and into the sand off the tee at the short par-four (350), Day holed out from 83 for eagle. With a 68 today, Day finished at 1-over.

Ben Martin at seventeen.

220, par-three with a 4I. And the ball…rolls…in. As noted, Martin shot 66 today and finished just under par. But that was thanks to the ace at seventeen followed by getting on in two and two-putting for birdie at the last.

REAL LIFE:

It was a lot more exciting and, if your name is either Dustin Johnson or Jordan Spieth, mind-numbing, as Johnson missed a three-foot putt on the 72nd hole that would have sent the two to an eighteen-hole playoff.

Spieth won it by a single shot at 5-under. In the replay, he lurked nearby for the first couple rounds (-2), then shot a pair of 72s to finish tied for 23rd at 2-over.

If there was any consolation, Johnson fared better than Spieth, tying for ninth.

Ryan Moore missed the cut by four.

There were no common names in the actual and replay top tens.

RYAN MOORE (-6, wins by four)
Second win of the season for him, the other coming in Malaysia
The caddies union says each caddie gets a fifteen break on each nine.
So Moore has to handle his own bag for a hole on each side.  

Event #31
Travelers Championship
TPC River Highlands
Cromwell, Connecticut
$6.4 million

FIRST ROUND:

Thanks to a nearly flawless back nine, Louis Oosthuizen is the first round leader with a 7-under 63.

Par is 35 a side and Oosthuizen came home in 29, including making birdie at the the final four holes starting with the drivable (296) fifteenth. Oddly, he didn’t make birdie at the second-easiest birdie hole on the course (fifteen was the easiest), the par-five thirteenth when, after going for the green in two, he pushed his second just a bit right and into one of the greenside bunkers and made par.

Oosthuizen has a one shot lead on Jeff Overton, Chez Reavie and Matt Jones. Like Oosthuizen, Reavie came home in 29 including six birdies in the final eight holes after shooting par on the front. Like Reavie, Overton had no bogeys while Jones overcame two.

There are five at 65 including Bubba Watson, who won the actual tourney, Nick Watney, John Huh (who birdied the first six holes on the back nine), Justin Thomas (who shot 29 on the back and with a bogey and also with an eagle at the par-five thirteenth) and Patrick Reed. There are nine more at 66: Nicholas Thompson (your sister plays better—I might have said that about Michael Thompson early on, oops, sorry, but Nicholas is Lexi’s brother), Branden Grace, Tom Hoge, Greg Owen, Jonas Blixt, Brendon Todd, Hunter Mahan, Tony Finau and Hudson Swafford.

SHOTS OF THE DAY:

There were three eagles at the drivable fifteenth, playing at about 285 with the pin up today. Whether they were hit on and one-putts or hole outs is conjecture. But, let’s give it a try.

Scott Langley. Near the bottom of the field in driving (264), it’s a good guess that it was a hole-out. And, even with two bogeys before the eagle and one immediately after, he still shot a 67.

Eric Axley. Even in the bottom half of the field in driving (277), he still might have made it. It could go either way. The eagle was the highlight in a dreary day of 75.

Charlie Beljan. At a 308 clip, yeah I’d vote for getting on and one-putting. Or, with his length, he could have chipped in from off the back. Or, hit a 3W. In any case, with four bogeys and a double immediately before the lone highlight of his day, Beljan will be exiting the premises after tomorrow having shot 78 today.

 

SECOND ROUND:

Chez Reavie, at -12, shot his second consecutive 64 to take a two-shot lead at the halfway point. But that’s not the big story.

That belongs to Vijay Singh. Quite a few have gone low on the back nine but none like Singh with a Links-like 27 on six birdies and an eagle at the drivable par-four fifteenth. After a relatively mundane front nine, Singh shot a 10-under 60. At 10-under, he’s (a) one of three in second place and (b), as he trails by two and second place is 10-under, he got all of that today.

As far as Reavie is concerned, he’s (a) bogey-free for the first 36 holes and (b) tearing up the back nine. 29 yesterday and 31 today mean that 10- of his 12-under have come on the final nine. His secret? 21/28 fairways, 29/36 greens and top 25 in putting. That’s no secret.

Bubba Watson and Nick Watney, both of whom shot 65, are the other two at -10. Watson (321) is numero uno in driving. That’s no surprise. Where that hasn’t helped him is at fifteen as he bogeyed it twice. After only five pars yesterday, Watney played a much quieter round–eleven pars, only one bogey and a 30 back nine. And, with a bogey and a par, fifteen hasn’t been kind to him, either. The “average” golfer has played it in 7 ½ strokes over the first two days (not sure how you count a half stroke–Foot wedge? The gimme you putt anyway and miss?) Watney’s lost a stroke and a half there and Watson 2 ½.

Yesterday’s leader, Louis Oosthuizen, shot a more pedestrian 68 today and, at 9-under, is three shots back. He’s joined there by fellow countryman (South Africa, if you’re keeping score) Branden Grace (65).

Brendon de Jonge slaughtered the back nine to the tune of 28. That included five birdies or better in a row starting at twelve (the “better” being an eagle at the par-five thirteenth). de Jonge’s 8-under 62 moved him to 8-under and a tie for seventh with Cameron Smith (64).

Six are tied at -7: David Toms (64), Robert Garrigus (65), Russell Knox (65), Will Wilcox (65), Jason Kokrak (66) and Hunter Mahan (67).

THE CUT LINE:

-1 with 78 sticking around for the weekend. Notables leaving early include Zach Johnson, Billy Horschel, Morgan Hoffman and Ernie Els. Els ain’t what he used to be and is, sadly, having a horrible season with nine missed cuts in thirteen events. His best finish was 44th in Shanghai.

SHOTS OF THE DAY:

There were four more eagles at fifteen today. Along with Singh, there was Sean O’Hair, Alex Prugh and Kevin Streelman.

Prugh made an end run with the eagle and two birdies over the final four holes but missed paydirt by one while Streelman missed the cut by two. And he birdied seventeen and eighteen but bogeyed the par-three sixteenth for the second straight day, which is an all carry framed by two bunkers. As far as O’Hair is concerned, he shot 63 today and is quite comfortable at 6-under after a not so comfortable 71 yesterday.

 

THIRD ROUND:

Another day, more low scores, another leader, sort of, as Russell Knox shot the low round of the day with an 8-under 62 (equaled by David Lingmerth) to move to 15-under and a share of the lead with overnight leader Chez Reavie. They have a two-shot lead on Bubba Watson.

In real life, Knox, the 29-year old Scotsman, has come into his own as, after earning his way out of the Web.com Tour, he was top 40 in Fed Ex points in ’14 and this year and, if you want to switch tracks and head to real life, at the time I’m writing this (late April), he’s all the way up at number three with a bullet in 2016 as a win (Shanghai) and two seconds have helped him along (edited: At the time of posting–late June–he’s at number five). In fantasy-land, he’s been steady, if unspectacular–63rd in points while having made 14/21 cuts, meaning he’s getting a steady paycheck. Today, Knox, who leads the field in greens, shot 30 on the back nine. Amazingly, throughout his entire day, he never birdied more than two holes in a row.

After a pair of 64s, Reavie shot a more mundane 67. He also had his first bogey. Took him 48 holes before he tried to draw a 3W off the tee at twelve but it hung out and ended up in the farthest of three fairway bunkers.

After a pair of 65s while holding down a spot in the final twosome today, Watson shot 67 and slipped a notch back to third. At 6-under through twelve, he had a pretty good round going before having too much fade on his power fade and sending his tee shot out of bounds leading to a double-bogey seven at the thirteenth. He also bogeyed the last.

Lingmerth moved into the thick of things with a 62. He divided his eight birdies equally between nines but his back nine birdies came all in a row starting at twelve. At 12-under, he’s in a three way tie for fourth with Will Wilcox (65) and Cameron Smith (66).

Juston Thomas (64) and Branden Grace (68) are tied for seventh at 11-under with Chad Campbell (64), Jeff Overton (65), Jason Kokrak (67) and Hunter Mahan (67) rounding out the top ten at 10-under, five shots back.

 

FINAL ROUND:

If this were horse racing, it could be said that Chez Reavie and Russell Knox, both playing in the final pairing, cooked each other in a speed duel and that allowed someone else to blow on past. Except that they weren’t going that fast but just fast enough to keep everyone else at bay. For a while.

Let’s pick up on the back nine. Both had started the day at 15-under and, with eleven holes in the books, both were at -17. And that was still good enough to lead—by a shot over Bubba Watson and two on Cameron Smith, both of whom had played 3-under to that point. For the record, Smith was playing in the third to last pairing with Will Wilcox who, though he shot a final round 66, was never within two shots of the lead at any point and ended up three shots back. And Watson was playing in the penultimate pairing with David Lingmerth. Coming off a 62 yesterday, Lingmerth didn’t come close to matching that today, a final round of even-par 70 seeing him finish seven shots back.

At twelve, Smith kept it in play, not a gimme with trees and the Connecticut River to the left and three well-placed bunkers to the right. Most will use a 3W off the tee. Anway, he made birdie with Reavie ending up in the farthest of the three bunkers and making bogey. The other two parred. So, it was Knox by a stroke over the other three at -17.

The thirteenth is a very reachable par-five that was the easiest hole on the course this week. As this is also the second and last par-five on the course, this was the last time to really make hay. With the Sunday pin placement behind the pond on the left, it wasn’t an easy eagle hole. But birdies were abundant and all four made their four.

Fourteen is a par-four, 421. A slight dogleg left, there are four bunkers out to the right. But, at about 225, there’s no reason for their existence, at least for pros. And, with a blind tee shot, they can’t even be used as an aiming point. As the fairway is generously wide past the bunkers, as in nearly 50 yards, many might seriously consider the driver. Reavie set the pace and birdied while the rest parred. So, Reavie and Knox were now tied for the lead at -18 with Smith and Watson a shot back.

Fifteen is a drivable par-four, 306. With water left and sand right plus a sizable bunker back left, a drive that’s just a bit off may be penalized. But, if you need a stroke, “going for it” is a serious consideration. The second-easiest hole all week, the Sunday pin placement combined with more aggressive play made this a little harder as it was the number seven handicap hole today. You can bet that Watson went for it while the other three may have trusted their short games as all had fine weeks both getting to the greens and putting once they got there. Smith and Watson birdied while the two in the final pairing settled for pars.

And now, it was a four-way tie at the top with three to play.

Sixteen is a par-three, 165, all carry with the pin four paces on and just seven behind the water. Surrounded by five bunkers, only the front left one is truly in play. Anything long will be a downhill putt. Reavie deposited his 9I into the bunker, couldn’t make the save and ended up making birdie while the others parred. So, it’s now a three-way tie at the top with Reavie a shot behind.

Seventeen is a par-four, 408. A bit of a dogleg right, there’s water all the way down the right side that also fronts the green, making the second shot all carry to a back right pin behind two bunkers. As the fairway narrows out a bit past 290, most will use a 3W. And, in trying to avoid the water there’s a large bunker at the corner of the dogleg. Reavie made up for his bogey on sixteen by making birdie here with the other three content not to make a mistake, hit toward the center of the green and make par.

And now, with just one hole left, it was a four-way tie at the top—again.

Eighteen is a par-four, 444. Though most of these guys can get home with 3W/short iron, there are bunkers framing a narrow fairway right in 3W range. As it widens out a little after that, the driver will likely take the sand out of play but might introduce heavy rough. There are two bunkers–front right and mid-right. Guess where the pin is? But, on longer shots, the green runs away a bit.

Smith parred. In the second-to-last group, Watson hit long off the tee, kept it in play, hit close and made birdie. That forced the hand of the final two, Knox and Reavie. Coming off the birdie at seventeen, Reavie batted first and, not a long hitter, kept it in play just past the bunkers. As did Knox. Up first, Knox tried to fade an 8I. But it stayed straight and landed on the center of the green. Easy two-putt territory but he needed one. Reavie hit a beauty of a shot that just cleared the front bunker and rolled to within a few feet of the pin. Knox two-putted; Reavie didn’t and there will be a two-man playoff upcoming.

BUT FIRST:

Here are the top ten:

It’s Watson (64) and Reavie (66) at 19-under with Smith (64) and Knox (67) right behind at -18. Then, it was two shots to Jason Kokrak (64), Branden Grace (65) and Will Wilcox (66) tied for fifth. Hunter Mahan (66) finished eighth and 14-under. Jeff Overton (67) was ninth at -13 with Heath Slocum (67), Justin Thomas (69) and David Lingmerth (70) tied for tenth at 12-under.

THE PLAYOFF:

It’s the first one in a while–since New Orleans. Eight events, not counting the match play tourney. It’ll start at eighteen.

With Reavie up first, both parred the first playoff hole.

Back to eighteen tee for another go-around. As with the first hole, Reavie not only went first but also went second as Watson took out the big stick and out-drove Reavie by about 25 yards. Reavie parked his second to within certain two-putt territory while Watson came in very high with a PW and landed in the front bunker. Up first, Watson hit close and sank a two-footer for a sand save and a par. From about fifteen feet and facing no real pressure, as the worst that could possibly happen was another playoff hole, Reavie sank his birdie putt for the win.

For Reavie, this win comes with two bonuses. Well, first off, it’s his first win since his first full year on the tour back in 2008 when he won the Canadian Open. The first is that, even though he had to go back to the Web.com Tour and kept his PGA Tour card by winning the finals, he’ll earn full PGA Tour status through the end of 2017. The second is that this the top four finishers of this tournament who aren’t otherwise eligible for the Open Championship now have their ticket punched to St. Andrews in three weeks. And Reavie is one of them. Of course, that’ll lead to a little rearranging as someone like, say, a Carl Petterson, who got into the Open field after finishing fifth here as an “also eligible” now won’t be. This is from the PGA Tour website writeup of the actual tourney:

(Graham) DeLaet and Brian Harman were in contention until some untimely bogeys late Sunday, but they still walked away with a decent consolation prize. So did Luke Donald and Carl Pettersson. They each earned a spot in the field for next month’s Open Championship at St. Andrews.

The Open Championship Qualifying Series was in place for the first time this year at the Travelers Championship, where the top four finishers not otherwise eligible would gain entry into the year’s third major. It was an odd position for Donald to be in — the Englishman has played every Open Championship since 2002 except one when he was injured in 2008.

‘It brings up a lot of great memories, watching it as a kid, and obviously some memories playing it as a professional,’ said Donald following a final-round 66 to tie for seventh with Bo Van Pelt and Mark Wilson, both of whom he beat out for a spot by virtue of a higher world ranking.

Donald was also helped by a bogey-bogey finish from Chris Stroud.

‘It’s obviously probably the major I’d love to win the most, coming from the U.K.’

Pettersson was just as eager to be going back. He’s never played The Open when it was held at St. Andrews.

‘I’m thrilled,’ he said. ‘It’s a nice bonus. It hasn’t been the greatest of years for me so far, but I feel like I’m at a turning point.’”

In the replay, none of the above four will make it into the Open. And Pettersson’s quote is on the money, even in fantasy-land. 16/24 cuts, but 87th in points and 109th in money. So, steady checks but nothing spectacular.

So, what lucky four are going to the Open instead of De Laet, Harman, Donald and Petterson? Reavie, Smith, Kokrak and Wilcox. This same scenario will also play out next week at the Greenbrier.

Another qualification is (PGA Tour website):

Also, the first five PGA TOUR members and any PGA TOUR members tying for fifth place, not exempt in the top 20 of the PGA TOUR FedExCup Points List for 2015 upon completion of the Travelers Championship, earn a berth into The Open Championship. Charley Hoffman, Robert Streb, Kevin Kisner and Steven Bowditch are those who qualified for The Open Championship in this manner.”

As in the voting booth “Interpretive statement:” Anyone in the top 20 on the Fed Ex list after Hartford who hasn’t yet qualified, max of five. Three more qualified this way: Robert Streb (he made the real life and fantasy lists), Justin Thomas and Pat Perez are in. That leaves one open slot for the moment. Might stay that way as I’ve got to figure out who the alternates were in 2015 and, if I can do that, if they are carded and can be included.

REAL LIFE:

Son of a gun if Bubba Watson didn’t go to a playoff, the only differences being that the other player was Paul Casey and that he (Watson, that is) won in a two-hole playoff.

Reavie finished tied for 25th and, other than that (or including that), there was no commonality in the top ten while Smith tied for 39th while Knox had to withdraw after the first round. If he only knew. Winning score by the way was 16-under.

ChezReavie.jpg (720×874)CHEZ REAVIE (-19, defeats Bubba Watson in a two-hole playoff)
OK, so that’s a Canadian Open trophy.
But Connecticut is in New England and New England is near Canada, so…

Event #32
The Greenbrier Classic
The Old White TPC
White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
$6.7 million

FIRST ROUND:

There are very few big names playing this week. Number five on the point list, Bubba Watson, is here, looking to make up for losing last week in a playoff in Connecticut. But no Spieth, McIlroy, Day, Moore, Horschel. So, this week should be fairly wide open.

That being said, Paul Casey, who actually lost in a playoff last week and who won the Houston Open in fantasy land, is the first round leader after a 6-under 64. As the two par-fives are on the back, this course plays 34-36. And Casey shot a 30 back nine after two bogeys on an even-par front. Casey started the back nine with four consecutive birdies, including knocking in a 25-foot putt at eleven and following that by hitting a 7-iron out of the rough from 167 at twelve to a foot. Casey also drain a 31-footer for birdie at sixteen.

David Hearn, who won not too long ago at the Fed Ex St. Jude’s, is one of five at 65. Pat Perez, who won the Texas Open, is another. The others are JB Holmes, Richard Sterne and Nick Watney.

Hearn birdied three in a row starting at fifteen, the first two on putts outside of 20 feet. Perez had three approaches inside of seven feet and made birdie at all, including the eighteenth, which is a par-three. Could be a fun finish on Sunday. Holmes shot 30 on the front, all four birdies coming on approaches to six feet or less. Sterne, who hasn’t done much of anything this season (only 5/14 cuts), birdied the final three, including holing out a testy short-sided pitch over a bunker from about 50 feet at sixteen. Watney’s three front side birdies came on approaches to six feet or less.

The tie at 66 is nine deep: Byron Smith, Whee Kim, Hudson Swafford, Jonathan Byrd, Seung-yul Noh, Alex Prugh, Heath Slocum, Bill Haas and Jonathan Randolph. Except maybe for Haas, no household names among that bunch, though Slocum had the shot of the day.

SHOT OF THE DAY:

Obviously, Sterne’s hole-out at sixteen is worth a mention. But today’s honor goes to Slocum, who got off to a great start with an eagle at the first. Getting close to 300 on his first drive, Slocum went with an 8I from 143 to a front pin position. Seemed like a lot of club, but Slocum went past the pin, his ball hitting the brakes and spinning back in for a “2.”

 

SECOND ROUND:

Yesterday’s leader is still today’s leader, though he has company as Paul Casey shot a 2-under 68 to make it a threesome at 8-under, JB Holmes and Byron Smith being the other two.

Playing in a bit of a breeze, Casey’s round was fairly uneventful with only three birdies, all on putts just either side of ten feet, one bogey and 2/3 in scrambling.

Smith made it a pair of 66s, most of it coming on a 3-under front nine and which included a 3W to six feet under the hole at the lengthy (245, and, at number two handicap so far, difficult) par-three eighth. The back nine was relatively quiet—just one birdie and a couple scrambles. One that got away was at the par-five seventeenth when Smith looked as if he was going to get up and down from 85 but missed the five-footer for birdie.

Holmes shot 67. The front side was a bit rough with a couple bogeys including one that probably shouldn’t have been as, after missing the green and short-siding himself at six, Holmes chipped to six feet but missed the par putt. The back nine was a bit easier, including an eagle at the par-five twelfth when, after a 335-yard drive, Holmes just missed the green with a 5I from 229 but poked a short, fifteen-foot chip into the hole.

The round of the day came from James Hahn, his 7-under 63 after an opening round of even-par moving him to within a shot of the lead. A double-bogey at six, when his approach landed in the bunker and he followed that with a poor sand shot out of a deep bunker and a three-putt, including missing from four feet for bogey actually saw him at 1-over. But Hahn reeled off eight birdies over the final eleven holes to really turn things around. He made some lengthy putts, including 25 feet at ten and 39 feet at thirteen. But he also hit some close, including a 3I at eight that rolled to within four feet and a SW from 117 at nine that spun back to a foot.

Three others are at -7…Morgan Hoffman, Hudson Swafford and Sean O’Hair.

Hoffmann’s been a bit of an enigma. He played decently enough earlier in the season, making twelve out of his first fourteen cuts. Near the end of that run were back-to-back seventh place finishes at the Heritage and the Zurich. He picked up a small check at The Players then went ‘thud’ as today marks the first cut he’s made in the past six events. At 101st in Fed Ex points, he should improve on that after this week and he should be well in line for at least the Barclays. He also shot 30 on the back nine today including closing out his round with four straight birdies, none any farther away from the hole than six feet. And, at the par-three eighteenth, he placed a 7I at the 190-yard hole to just a foot short of the cup.

O’Hair’s 66 came with an eagle at the par-five twelfth when he hit just under pin high and made the thirteen-foot putt. Swafford’s 67 came with three bogeys. It also came with a 45-foot chip-in at five and a 28-foot birdie putt at the last.

Keegan Bradley made it back-to-back 67s and he’s all alone in eighth at -6.

The tie for ninth has eleven men in it including a guy making his first cut since The Masters. Then again, this is only his fourth event since—Tiger Woods. On and off the DL, Woods (67) has only played in seven events. The other ten are Pat Perez, who’s been playing some pretty good golf this season, missing only three cuts in 20 tries and with a win at the Texas Open, Webb Simpson (65), Nick Watney (70), Russell Henley (67), Adam Hadwin (67), Jonathan Byrd (69), Blaine Barber (64), Whee Kim (69), Rory Sabbatini (68) and Jonathan Randolph (69).

THE CUT LINE:

1-under with 71 sticking around for the weekend. Those heading off to the John Deere—or maybe nowhere at all—include Danny Lee, who’s won twice this year and has seven top tens to his name, Patrick Reed, Kevin Kisner, Sam Saunders, Ryo Ishikawa, Daniel Berger and Graham DeLaet.

 

THIRD ROUND:

The three overnight leaders all shot over par and fell to at least three shots out of the lead and as much as six.

Paul Casey fared the best of that lot with a 1-over 71. At 7-under, he’s three shots off the pace. That 71 came with five bogeys, including a three-putt at the par-five seventeenth from just eighteen feet.

Byron Smith shot 73—four bogeys and a single birdie. He, too, bogeyed the seventeenth when he just missed the green with his 9I approach and babied what looked like a fairly routine chip, barely making it out of the heavy grass and onto the fringe.

JB Holmes shot 74 and never did have a par today. But he did have a double-bogey. That came at the fifth. At 389, it shouldn’t be a difficult hole. But Holmes made it difficult by, first, using a driver and, second, hooking it into the trees. Thinking he had a chance to hit a wedge over the trees and onto the green, his ball clipped the trees and landed in the creek fronting the green.

At the top, it’s Morgan Hoffmann and by two shots after a round of 67. Yesterday’s finish of four straight birdies didn’t quite carry over to today though the end result was quite satisfying for the man who comes from about 10 minutes up Route 208 from me. Hoffmann made a couple of mid-length putts on the front nine. He also missed four greens on the front side. But that translated into only one bogey. That came at six, where he missed the green to the left for the second straight day. His two back nine birdies came at holes that he’s birdied every day—twelve and eighteen. Twelve’s a par-five and is the easiest hole on the course. Eighteen is a par-three, a bit more difficult. But not for Hoffmann. On Thursday, he hit to three feet. Yesterday, it was just a foot. Today—eight feet. He might be losing his touch.

The tie for second consists of four men.

Jim Herman shot 65. Equaled by Chris Stroud (t-11th) it was the round of the day. After hitting close at four (four feet) and five (three feet), Herman had to work a bit, including making a 39-footer for birdie at eight. He finished up with a 6I over the stick at the last and made the nine-footer coming back.

Steven Bowditch shot a 66 with most of the heavy lifting done thanks to a 29 front side. The highlight there was a near hole-out with a PW from 126 at the seventh. Bowditch might have been tied for the lead if not for two late bogeys. At sixteen, he put his approach into the bunker. Eighteen was a three-putt, including missing from five feet that would have saved par.

George McNeill also shot 66. Of his five birdies, only one putt came in at less than ten feet (six feet at fourteen). He also sank lengthy birdie putts of 32 feet at six, 26 feet at nine and 29 at ten.

The last member of the -8 foursome is Pat Perez. In an otherwise up and down round, Perez got on a hot streak as he closed out the front nine with four birdies, the putter the hottest club in his bag as he made consecutive birdie putts of twelve, eight, eight and six feet, none of them a sure thing.

The rest of the top ten consists of five players at -7. Besides Casey, there’s Harrison Frazar (67), Webb Simpson (68), Keegan Bradley (69) and James Hahn (70).

Tiger Woods, showing a flash of brilliance this week, fell out of the top ten with a round of even-par 70. That put him in a tie for sixteenth at -5.

And, Peter Uihlein (who?), a 25-year old who’s had some trouble sticking on the PGA Tour

[missed three cuts in three tries here, two in secondary events (Sanderson Farms and Puerto Rico)] and is pitching his tent in Europe with moderate success, was actually the overall leader on the course at 9-under. But the leaders had yet to start. And Uihlein had yet to play the final six holes. Which he played in 4-over, including a double at sixteen when he pushed his tee shot into the water. At -5, he’s tied with Woods and nine others. In real life, he actually finished fourth at Sanderson Farms. Not playing again until Puerto Rico, he missed the cut there then again at the Travelers last week before withdrawing from this tourney. In fantasy-land, he’ll actually earn a few bucks this week.

 

FINAL ROUND:

As I noted a couple posts back, Morgan Hoffmann has been a bit of an enigma. Plenty of talent but hasn’t won yet. Made cuts left and right until The Players, including back-to-back seventh place finishes, then went into a funk, not making a cut until this week. But, not only did he make the cut, he came into today with a two-shot lead.

Just as hackers on a good run of holes wonder when the wheels are going to fall off, such was the case with Hoffman today. He had or shared the lead as late as the ninth hole. But consecutive missed greens at ten and eleven—and he could have saved par from five feet at eleven but didn’t—led to bogeys and he never even sniffed the lead again. Two-putting for birdie at the par-five twelfth helped a little. But bogeys at fourteen, sixteen and seventeen, the first two on missed greens and the latter on a three-putt, finished off Hoffmann for good, a final round of 2-over 72 seeing him finish three shots out of the lead at 8-under.

So, who passed Hoffmann by?

One was Chris Stroud. Winless longer than Hoffmann’s been—228 starts coming into today (OK, make it 229), Stroud, who started five groups in front of Hoffmann and Jim Herman, was 6-under on the day after just twelve holes with that 12-under score giving him the lead. That included starting the back nine with three straight birdies, including a 39-foot putt at ten and, after missing the green at the par-five twelfth, salvaging birdie with a sixteen-foot putt. But, things went south for Stroud immediately after that. At thirteen, he missed the fairway and green and made bogey. Same at sixteen, with his approach landing in a diabolical bunker left of the green. Eighteen is a par-three surrounded by four bunkers. And Stroud pulled a 6I into one of them. So, 12-under became 9-under as he, too, was paid handsomely for missing the boat.

Another was Harrison Frazar. With one win in 405 starts coming into today (the 2011 St. Jude’s, which he won in a playoff and, by the way, make it 406), the 43-year old veteran started the day at -7. He went backward only once—with an eleventh hole three-putt bogey from just eleven feet. But he didn’t go forward much, either. Needing a hole-in-one at the last to tie (and, as it’s a par-three, that’s a possibility), Frazar went flag hunting and missed just right and long and made a nine-foot birdie putt which led to his best finish in three years—tied for fourth.

Yet another was Steven Bowditch. Starting his day at -7 and playing in the second-to-last pairing with George McNeill, a chip-in from the heavy grass just off the green at fifteen saw him grab a share of the lead, at least for a couple minutes or until Herman wrapped up a birdie on fourteen. Bowditch missed both the fairway and green at sixteen and made bogey. But he got that shot back by getting up and down from 51 at the par-five seventeenth. Needing par at the last to tie James Hahn, already in the clubhouse at -11, Bowditch pulled a 7I just a bit, missing the green. Then, after a so-so chip, he rimmed out from nine feet to save par.

Hahn was nearly flawless today. With four birdies and no bogeys, he never headed backward. And he missed but three greens and, with no bogeys, obviously converted at all three. The biggie came at three, when he rolled off the back with a 3I at the 229-yard, par-three third, then chipped in from 35 feet for birdie. Hahn nearly put away the competition at the last. Playing at 188, his 7I was right on target, nearly holing out on the fly and stopping on a dime a foot behind the pin. Needless to say, he tapped in for birdie to finish at -11. And now he had to wait.

McNeill started at 8-under. He birdied the first hole the three previous days. Today, he pushed his approach into the right greenside bunker and made bogey. He jacked his tee shot at three and did likewise. But he got himself back into the game with a SW from 107 to five feet and a birdie at nine. He missed the fairway at eleven, but drilled a 3I from 235 to a back left pin position that hit midway on the green and rolled into the cup for an eagle! McNeill followed that up with a two-putt birdie at twelve. That got him to 10-under. -11 came on a 4I that got a lucky bounce at fifteen. Just clearing the lone bunker, his ball landed in the rough and bounced on, stopping pin high and eight feet right of a very tight pin. Needing to get one more stroke to possibly win outright, McNeill missed the green at each of the final three holes. The first, at sixteen, was puttable, but from long distance, and he made par. He had an uphill pitch off the short grass at seventeen, hit to three feet and made another par. And his 6I at the last turned out to be nearly a club over the pin bouncing just off the back. Chipping to six feet, he made the par putt to join Hahn as co-leader.

37-year old journeyman Jim Herman was winless in 85 starts coming into today. Heck, it took him until just two years ago to finally stick on the tour. And, in real life, he finally won in 2016 at the Shell Houston Open. But, fantasy-land is only in mid-2015, so Herman hasn’t won anything. Yet. Starting at 8-under, Herman got it to -12 and the lead with a chip-in from 45 feet from just off the back of the green at fourteen. After parring the fifteenth, he took a giants step backward at the all carry off the tee sixteenth when he pushed his tee shot into the water and made double bogey. He just missed from fourteen feet for par at seventeen. But, instead of convincing himself that this would be another winless tournament, he decided that this was going to be the best finish of his career no matter how it turned out at eighteen, so why not make it better. At eighteen, he put a 7I pin high but a little left and needing a birdie to join Hahn and McNeill in a playoff, he did just that.

So, it’ll be a three-man playoff among three 30-ish journeymen with two combined wins. If you want to see hunger, just watch this playoff.

SHOT OF THE DAY:

McNeill’s at eleven would have to be the best of the lot. But there were the chip-ins, already noted, and Herman’s birdie effort at eighteen that got him into the playoff.

THE REST OF THE TOP TEN:

Frazar (67) and Bowditch (68) finished at -10. Stroud (67) was at -9. Hoffman (72) was joined by Jason Gore at 8-under. And, tied for ninth at -7 were Brendon Todd (67), Scott Piercy (68), Paul Casey (70) and Keegan Bradley (70).

REAL LIFE:

Danny Lee (-13) won in a four-man, two hole playoff.

The only common names in the top ten were Hahn, who matched his -11 score. Unfortunately, it was good only for sixth place. But, fortunately, under the nearly brand new Open qualifying system (see the final round of the Travelers write-up for more), the sixth place finish was good enough for Hahn to get his ticket punched for St. Andrews. And Todd also finished at 11-under.

And, for the record, Hoffman made a Sunday charge with a 66 but finished just outside the top ten at 10-under.

THE PLAYOFF:

Hahn drew number one and put a 7I seven feet over the stick. McNeill also hit a 7I, sixteen feet under and left of the flag. Herman did likewise, nearly hitting McNeill’s ball. Herman putted first and his uphill slightly left to right putt ran past. McNeill’s putt was a little closer to the hole but also ran past. Both cleaned up their pars. Hahn drained his putt dead center for the win.

So, in alternate universe time, the 33-year old Hahn finally wins his first PGA Tour event.

THE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP:

As was the case with the Travelers, this tournament allowed the first four finishers not otherwise qualified to earn a spot in the Open. So, if it takes ten or more finishers to find the first four, so be it. Supposedly, there were five spots available from both tourneys. But, as it’s difficult to find out who got in as alternates and who actually doesn’t belong in the alternate universe, I found two who qualified through this tournament in the actual world who wouldn’t have made it in the alternate universe–Greg Owen and Brendon Todd. They will be replaced by the two men who lost in the playoff–McNeill and Herman.

hahn_1920_wellsfargo16_d4_trophy.jpg (1920×1080)JAMES HAHN
At -11, he won in a three-man, one-hole playoff for his first PGA Tour win.
So the trophy says “Wells Fargo” on it. That’s merely for photographic purposes.
It’ll get Photo-shopped out and replaced with the correct sponsor. 

Event #33
John Deere Classic
TPC Deere Run
Silvis, Illinois
$4.7 million

FIRST ROUND:

Except for Jordan Spieth, almost all of the top players are either taking this week off in preparation for the Open Championship or, if you’re Phil Mickelson, using the Scottish Open as a tune-up. As it turned out, the alternate universe allowed some players to get into the Open who weren’t actually in. And some are playing here this week–Jim Herman, Pat Perez and George McNeill, to name three. The good news is that none will suffer from jet lag.

Overnight rain led to lift, clean and place and many took target practice, led by Tim Herron’s 9-under 62.

Herron, who either Monday qualified or is in on a sponsor’s exemption, because he lost his Tour card after the ’13 season, is playing in only his sixth PGA event this season making only one cut (Puerto Rico). Needless to say, this was his best round of the year and only the second in the 60s of fourteen total rounds (67 in the first round at the Crowne Plaza then shot 76 and missed the cut). Herron started his tourney with three consecutive birdies and shot 5-under 30 on the front nine. And that included a bogey at four where he clipped the oak tree in the middle of the fairway. Geez, you hit in the middle of the fairway and someone put a tree there? He also birdied the final three holes.

Boo Weekley and Tim Clark each shot 63. Both shot 30 on the front side. For Clark, it came with some tree trouble at four and a bogey while Weekley, who hit sixteen greens, avoided the bogeyman.

Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson, John Huh, Steven Alker and Scott Brown are at 64 with Michael Thompson, Adam Hadwin, Seung-yul Noh, Chris Stroud and Patrick Rodgers at 65 as, all told 86 players broke par.

 

SECOND ROUND:

Yesterday’s leader, Tim Herron, couldn’t put together more than one good round in a row, which is the way his year has gone. After a 62 yesterday, he held his own with an even-par front side but had three bogeys and a double on the back. The double came at thirteen, a par-four that the hole description on the PGA Tour website says is, “(p)robably one of the friendliest holes on the course.” 424, slight dogleg, draw a 3W. But there are bunkers either side and Herron landed in one, missed the green with two and three-putted because, for the life of me, there’s probably no other way for a pro to pull off a double at this hole. The good news is that Herron made only his second cut of the year (in just six tries as he’s been earning his keep on the AAA tour).

The man at the top is now Robert Streb at 12-under after shooting a 64. As was the case yesterday, Streb birdied the fourteenth then finished with three consecutive birdies.

Adam Hadwin is next at -11 after a round of 66. And that’s 11-under with six bogeys and with a total of four pars in the first two rounds.

Tim Clark, the only man in the top three from yesterday to still be there as Boo Weekley shot 74 and joined Herron down in 24th, shot 69 and is at 10-under. Clark, who shot a 30 front yesterday, couldn’t break par there today (1-over 36) but recovered with three birdies on the back nine including sixteen and seventeen for the second straight day.

Breathing down the necks of the leaders are two guys named Spieth and Johnson, this Johnson being Zach, though you wouldn’t want Dustin breathing down your neck, either. They each shot 69 and are at -9. They’re joined there by Jeff Overton (67).

After that, the top ten is populated by five at 8-under: Retief Goosen (65, and who’s had a rough year at 140th in the Fed Ex derby), Troy Kelly (66), Jim Herman (67), Nick Taylor (67) and Fabian Gomez (67).

SHOT OF THE DAY:

Herman at thirteen.

It was friendly to him as he holed out probably with an 8I or 9I from about 140-150. With quick play, it happens so quickly.

THE CUT LINE:

-1 with 83 making it. No secondary cut here. Maybe the biggest surprise of the two and out crew is US Open winner Ryan Moore who, at +6, beat only six other players.

 

THIRD ROUND:

Robert Streb is still the man to beat, though it’ll be tougher to do so as he’s opened a four-shot lead after rounds of 66-64-65 sees him at 18-under.

First in greens and first in putting is a good combination for winning. So is doing well on the final three holes, as he birdied all three the first two days, birdied sixteen and seventeen again today, but ran into trouble at eighteen when, in trying to steer clear of the water on the left of the green, he went too far right and ended up in the back bunker. So Streb’s lead could have been five or even six shots.

Two are at -14, Jason Bohn (64) and Jordan Spieth (66). As Bohn was the first to post that score, he’ll be playing in the final twosome tomorrow. Even with a bogey on the uphill par-three third when he landed in the front bunker, Bohn still had a half dozen birdies and a 30 front side. Spieth, not a long hitter, had tree trouble at the fourth (that’s the hole with the tree in the middle of the fairway) and made his only bogey of the day there.

John Huh (65) and Adam Hadwin (69) are tied for fourth at -13. As it’s at least seven shots out of the lead for the rest of the field, those are probably the only five that have a chance tomorrow. In any case, the rest of the top ten consists of Brian Harman (63), Ken Duke (67), Zach Johnson (69) and Tim Clark (70) at 11-under with four tied for tenth at -10: Boo Weekley (66), Carlos Ortiz (66), Harris English (66) and Pat Perez (68).

SHOT OF THE DAY:

Danny Lee at three.

The uphill par-three playing at 185 where the view is of two bunkers front and right, though the first one, at about 145, is there to distract and deceive, and maybe the top of the flagstick. And Lee aced it! Though he never saw it go in. Thirteenth hole-in-one this year, first for Lee and no one has more than one. That and the front nine were the good news for Lee as he went out in 31 and was at 9-under. Then came the back nine. Two bogeys, two doubles, 2-over for the day and 3-under for the tourney.

 

FINAL ROUND:

After lift, clean and place for the first three days, a breeze kicked up and the course dried out quite a bit.

Here’s the storyline: Overnight leader (and by four shots) Robert Streb faltered and Jordan Spieth smoked the field before nearly faltering himself.

Spieth was playing in the second-to-last pairing, shot a 29 front and, with a birdie at ten had a run of five birdies in six holes working. And, what started as a four-shot lead turned into a three-shot lead for Spieth.

Then Spieth faltered with four bogeys in the next five holes sandwiched around a birdie at thirteen, which turned out to be a big help.

But, where Spieth would birdie the thirteenth, Streb would make bogey. But Streb would birdie the fourteenth, drivable even at 361 as the hole is downhill. But missing the fairway or the green can be penal. As it turned out, that birdie was the only one Streb could muster up today among three bogeys. Because, even one more birdie among the three finishing holes would have tied him with Spieth. And he had birdied all three the first two days, then birdied sixteen and seventeen with a bogey at yesterday with just a lone bogey at eighteen today and he lost by two.

As did John Huh, who shot a closing round of 68 but was never in it. After that, it was Jason Bohn (70) in fourth at -15, Adam Hadwin (70) at -14, Jim Herman (66) and Boo Weekley (68) tied for sixth at 13-under, Zach Johnson (70) at -12 and Will Wilcox (66) and Carlos Ortiz (70) tied for ninth at 11-under.

So, Spieth wins his fourth of the year by two at 18-under. No one else has won more than two. He also had a record-breaking win at Riviera along with victories at the Heritage and Crowne Plaza in addition to six other top tens. He’s also missed but one cut all season in eighteen starts (Houston). Not too shabby.

REAL LIFE:

Art imitates it as Spieth won. But, unlike the two-shot win at 18-under here, in real life it took a two-hole playoff to defeat Tom Gillis at -20. Gillis missed the cut by four here.

Other names appearing in both top tens were Zach Johnson (tied for second at -19) and Will Wilcox (tied for eighth at -16).

Going into the Open Championship, Spieth has a stranglehold in the points race. Where the gap between players is generally 25-50-100 points, Spieth leads second place Zach Johnson by nearly a thousand (2,986-2,010). He also leads Jason Day by $1.5 million.

jordan-spieth-847-cohen.jpg (850×469)JORDAN SPIETH (-18, wins by two)
Fourth win of the season for him as he upped his points lead to a nearly insurmountable 976.
It might be difficult to deposit that check at the drive-thru ATM. 

Event #34a
Barbasol Championship
Grand National (Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail)
Opelika, Alabama
$3.5 million

Ah, Alabama in July! And in a tournament populated by has-beens, never weres and not yets.

The Open Championship is the main event this week. This event gives some of the also-rans a chance to earn a two-year exemption while playing for shaving cream. It’ll be written up in one post as there’s no need to drag this out any longer than it has to.

FIRST ROUND:

Alex Prugh leads the way with a 5-under 66. Haven’t heard much from him after a strong start to the season where he followed up a second place finish at Sanderson Farms to win in Mexico. Then when more of the big boys showed up after the first of the year, he finished fifteenth at Torrey Pines and eleventh at Riviera. After that, even though he’s missed eight cuts in his last fifteen tourneys, he’s still 23rd on the points list. He was bolstered by four back nine birdies.

Brandt Jobe and Brian Davis are at 67. The rest of the top ten consists of seven at 68: Tyrone van Aswegen, Chesson Hadley, Skip Kendall, Ryan Armour, Benjamin Alvarado, Patton Kizzire and Tim Herron, who led after the first round last week, too, before finishing tied for 44th. Johnson Wagner was 4-under but had late bogeys at fifteen and seventeen and fell back.

SECOND ROUND:

This place apparently isn’t a cakewalk. 5-under 66, and in a bit of a breeze, was low round yesterday. 67, and in absolutely pristine conditions, was low round today. For the record, and not that it matters here, the nines are reversed for the tournament and the third hole (twelfth for everyone else) is a long par-four instead of a reachable par-five.

Yesterday’s leader, Alex Prugh, took a dump–ten shots worth, from 66 to 76. If there’s any good to come out of it, as no one is burning the course up, he’s at even-par, tied for 26th and only six shots out of the lead. For the record, he bogeyed both back nine par-fives and made double at the ninth, which is a pretty straightforward medium length par-four. Though there are lots of trees.

Local boy on a sponsor’s exemption Patton Kizzire (went to school at nearby Auburn) is the current leader after consecutive 68s. After a three-bogey front, he played 4-under on the back, including birdieing the tenth and eleventh for the second straight day.

After that are three men who shot 68 and 69 in some order–Benjamin Alvarado, Eric Axley and Bo Van Pelt. The tie for fifth at 4-under is five deep: Chris Riley (67), Boo Weekley (68), Bill Lunde (68), Chesson Hadley (70) and Ryan Armour (70). Six are tied for tenth at -3: Whee Kim (68), Charlie Wi (69), Johnson Wagner (70), Zac Blair (70), Skip Kendall (71) and Brandt Jobe (72)

THE CUT LINE:

+3 with 75 sticking around for the weekend.

As there are no big names playing here, it’s not worth mentioning who went two and out. One name that stuck out was Tim Wilkinson.

A New Zealander, Wilkinson is dangerously close to losing his Tour card. Finishing at 119th on the Fed Ex list in ’14, he kept his card for ’15. But he did poorly (184th) in ’15 and earned provisional status for ’16, so it appeared, with a decent Web.com finals (29th). As I write this (which is after Quail Hollow) he’s at 148th.

Let’s just say that he didn’t help himself today. Shot 72 yesterday–not too bad. Today? Eight bogeys, two doubles and a triple. And 5 RBI. And a round of 86. Which was nine shots worse than anyone else today. Somehow, he made a “7” at the tenth. The opening hole for regular play, it’s pretty cut and dried. Hybrid or long iron off the tee then, even though the hole makes a nearly 90 degree turn, it’s maybe an 8I-9I in with water short and right in an otherwise wide open approach. Which is probably where Wilkinson ended up. He could also have hit that shot out of the large fairway bunker and the corner of the dogleg. Whatever he did, he’s a goner, beating no one and tying Jason Gore, who was a member of the walking dead after an 83 yesterday.

THIRD ROUND:

Looks like these guys are starting to figure out this place as Michael Thompson and Zac Blair posted rounds of 7-under 64. For Thompson, who’s also at 7-under for the tourney, he was the leader in the clubhouse for a while. For Blair, he was also the leader in the clubhouse for the better part of an hour or until Bill Lunde wrapped up a round of 65 and joined him. Yesterday’s leader, Patton Kizzire, shot 68 and is right nearby at -9.

Blair had a 5-under stretch over seven holes starting at nine that got derailed a bit by a tee shot into the bunker at the inside of the dogleg at the par-five sixteenth and a second pushed into the water and a bogey.

Lunde, who had nine bogeys in the first two rounds, had none today.

Kizzire had three of each on the front side before playing a quieter (and better) back nine with three birdies.

And Thompson, who had no bogeys, had three consecutive birdies to start the back nine.

So, it’s Blair and Lunde at -10, Kizzire at -9, Johnson Wagner (66) at -8, Thompson and Ryan Armour (68) at 7-under, Benjamin Alvarado (70) at -6 and Blayne Barber (67), Ricky Barnes (68), Skip Kendall (69) and Boo Weekley (70) at 5-under.

FINAL ROUND:

Tommy Gainey, ol’ “Two Gloves,” who was doing pretty well in 2012-13 only to lose his Tour card after the ’14 season, finally showed signs of life this year.

This is only his ninth PGA Tour event in which he’s played, presumably either on sponsors’ exemptions or Monday qualifying. The other eight were nothing to write home about–made the cut in only four with his largest check being $28,000 for finishing 37th at New Orleans. Other than that, nothing higher than 61st.

So, what did he do today? Started at 3-under. Meaning that, if he kept it together, it’d be his biggest check of the year, even at a minor event such as this. Gainey started off with birdies at the first two. The fifth is the only par-five on the front side and he birdied that. He also birdied the par-four ninth for the third straight day. Then, after bogeying the tenth for the first two days, he birdied it for the last two. Sixteen is the final par-five on the course. He didn’t quite get on in two but got up and down for birdie. He left the driver in the bag at eighteen but got close enough with a 3W/8I combination for his final birdie of the day.

And, with a 7-under 64, he was the leader in the clubhouse with anyone who had the potential of catching him having at least two holes to play and as much as six. So, he had to wait.

One man who had nothing today was 54-hole co-leader Zac Blair. Except for a first hole birdie, he could do no right, including the cardinal sin of not only bogeying both back nine par-fives but making double-bogey at both, thirteen on a trip into the trees and an unplayable and sixteen on a ball in the water. Blair ballooned to a final round 77 and, let’s just say that today turned out to be a very long day for him.

Ricky Barnes had a bit more than two holes to go after Gainey posted his 10-under. Barnes started his day at -5 and inched steadily up the leaderboard. After a birdie at fourteen, he had pulled even with Gainey, though there were a couple others on the course worth a mention before I go any further.

Ryan Armour started the day at 7-under. Three birdies in a row starting at five put him right into the thick of things. But he pushed his ball a bit at the 202-yard, par-three twelfth, a hole where the first 190 is carry, and he made bogey. Be he recovered by hitting close at fourteen and again at the short (390), doglegged fifteenth, making birdie at both. He parred the next two. But, at eighteen, a fairly straightaway par-four with two bunkers to the left in the landing area and a large one front and left of the green and two much smaller ones off the back right, Armour landed in both the fairway bunker and the large greenside one and ended up taking himself out of the running with a double-bogey.

Bill Lunde was teamed up with Blair in the final twosome. Like Gainey, Lunde is a 39-year old journeyman who’s had trouble holding onto his Tour card. He won once, at Turning Stone, up near Syracuse, back in ’10. That might have been the last year of the BC Open, which was held down the road in Endicott. But, due to heavy rains, En-Joie Country Club got flooded out by the neighboring Susquehanna River. At least that’s how I remember the story. Anyway, let’s just say that it’s been a long time since Lunde has been in this position.

He played 1-under on the front side as, after a good start with birdies at one and three, he gave those shots back with bogeys at four and seven but birdied the ninth to tie for the lead with Johnson Wagner at 11-under.

Over to Wagner, who started today two shots out of the lead. He birdied the first, sixth and seventh which, at the time put him in the lead at -11 with Lunde eventually pulling even. Wagner played a bit too safely, steering a bit too far away from the water at eleven, landed in the large greenside bunker and made bogey. But he got the shot right back when he drained a medium length putt at twelve. In the group behind, Lunde would do likewise to re-take the lead.

Barnes, about two holes ahead of Wagner, would birdie the par-four fourteenth and the par-five sixteenth to get to 11-under. He’d par the final two and would overtake Gainey to become the leader in the clubhouse.

Even with two par-fives, Wagner could do no better than parring out. And he, too, would finish at -11.

After making birdie at the twelfth, Lunde would run off four consecutive pars, including both back nine par-fives. At the par-three seventeenth with the pin tucked in right against the water, Lunde and his one-shot lead played for the center of the green. Except he ended up a bit farther left than he intended and ended up three-putting for bogey. Now needing par at the 476-yard last, Lunde’s tee shot ended up in one of the greenside bunkers; he just missed the green with his second and couldn’t get up and down, the bogey eliminating him from a chance at winning for the first time in five years.

So, it’ll be Wagner and Barnes in a playoff.

THE TOP TEN:

Barnes (65) and Wagner (68) tied at -11 with Gainey (64) and Lunde (71) at -10. Skip Kendall (67), Michael Thompson (69) and Ryan Armour (69) tied for fifth at 9-under. Boo Weekley (68) finished eighth at -8 with Brandt Jobe (67) and Vaughn Taylor (67) tying for ninth at 7-under.

REAL LIFE:

Scott Piercy won it by three at 19-under. But fantasy-land wasn’t too kind to him as, though he made the cut, he finished tied for 66th at +6.

Will Wilcox finished second. His fantasy was far better as he finished tied for fifth at the Travelers. Which has what to do with this? Well, the Travelers and the Greenbrier allowed top finishers who weren’t otherwise qualified to secure a spot in the Open Championship at St. Andrews. And Wilcox qualified.

Barnes did pretty well in real life, too, finishing tied for third at -14. Weekley finished tied for sixth at 13-under with Taylor and Wagner finishing tied for tenth at -12.

THE PLAYOFF:

Starting at eighteen, it finished there, as Barnes hit the fairway and green and two-putted for par while Wagner came up a bit short with his second and landed in the left front bunker and couldn’t get up and down.

So, the 34-year old Barnes who, in real life, has flirted with losing his Tour card over the past couple-three years, comes up with his first win in 202 career starts.

BCDM3vQCUAA93am.jpg (599×442)RICKY BARNES (-11, defeats Johnson Wagner in a one-hole playoff)
This was his first win in 202 career starts.
And how did he celebrate? Playing with his… Oh, well, typical guy. 

 

By |2017-02-13T11:22:53+00:00May 22nd, 2016|ASG Golf Game Results|Comments Off on 2015 PGA Tour (Wells Fargo – Barbasol )

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